For 300 years, there have been no humans on earth – at least not as we know them. As it became clear that the human race wouldn’t survive the Slow Plague, scientists formed an initiative to save humans by creating our survivors in a lab. Nine perfect humans were created – homo factus – and they were cloned and continue to be, creating the new society that now inhabit the earth. Each of the three communities left on Earth maintains a society of 900 humans, 100 of each of the original nine homo factus spaced over generations. The Kates tended towards mathematics, the Samuels towards medicine, the Hassans towards ecology, the Victors towards regulation – each member has their perfect fit towards running a smooth and orderly world. The clones grow up alongside their brothers or sisters, tethered to each other in groups of ten per generation. They share a bedroom, wear a uniform distinct to their persona, and even share emotions through a bonding ritual called communing.
Which is why it is so jarring when a new member is introduced to the community of Vispera. Jack has been grown from the DNA of the extinct homo sapiens and has no fellow clones. When he is introduced to the community as a boy to take classes with the clones his own age, the clones are wary of him – his unfamiliar blue eyes, his imperfect body wracked with an eradicated disease called asthma, and his singularness. When Jack is provoked by the Carson clones, he lashes out at one, and is immediately sent back to be raised in the lab, declared too violent to be part of the community.
But Althea-310 has also felt like an outsider. She stands out from her nine sisters with a scar on her wrist, having been born with the defect. The human Jack intrigues her as much as he scares her. When he is reintroduced to the community when they are older teenagers, his guardian Samuel-299 tries to socialize him better. But a series of violent acts befall Vispera upon his reintroduction, and the community is convinced Jack is behind them. Althea-310 knows he wasn’t, however, as they were together the night of the first attack. When her protestations fall on deaf ears, she begins to see cracks in the otherwise perfect facade of Vispera. She and Jack begin to look for answers – on why the lab created Jack to begin with, and who is really behind the danger facing their community.
Your One & Only appears to be a romance, with its heart-filled cover, soulmate title, and tagline “There is nothing more human than love.” And while that certainly fits the themes of the book, it is much more of a science fiction tale. Which means it is sort of a hard to sell to both romance fans and science fiction fans. That is too bad, because it’s a cool book. The setting is heavily reminiscent of The Giver with its sterile, ritualistic society. It relies more on exposition than action, but luckily it’s pretty interesting stuff. Fans of shows like Westworld and other “what it means to be human or not” type stories will find familiar tropes here, and the enjoyment comes not from where the story goes so much as the information the main characters will dig up about the origins of the community and what things aren’t as they seem.
If you’re tired of series, this one is a standalone. It wraps up sort of quickly and doesn’t tie up a lot of loose strings, but still leaves the reader satisfied. Definitely pick it up if you like science fiction about clones and “humans vs. not” or dystopian fiction.