Review: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee by Shallee McArthur

Tuesday, November 11, 2014
 Title: The Unhappening of Genesis Lee
Author: Shallee McArthur
Genre: Science Fiction
Series: None
Pages: 352
Published: November 4, 2014
Source: Publisher via edelweiss
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Genesis Lee has never forgotten anything. As one of the Mementi—a small group of genetically enhanced humans—Gena remembers everything with the help of her Link bracelets, which preserve them perfectly. But Links can be stolen, and six people have already lost their lives to a memory thief, including Gena’s best friend.

Anyone could be next. That’s why Gena is less than pleased to meet a strange but charming boy named Kalan who claims not only that they have met before, but also that Gena knows who the thief is.

The problem is that Gena doesn’t remember Kalan, she doesn’t remember seeing the thief, and she doesn’t know why she’s forgetting things—or how much else she might forget. As growing tensions between Mementi and ordinary humans drive the city of Havendale into chaos, Gena and Kalan team up to search for the thief. And as Gena loses more memories, they realize they have to solve the mystery fast…because Gena’s life is unhappening around her.

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee and I are not meant to be. I thought we were. It’s a young-adult sci-fi, one of my favorite genres, with a great synopsis, a pretty cover, and high ratings. Unfortunately, it’s also heavily Christian, with a saccharine ending, and not enough character development.

Gena’s a Mementi, genetically enhanced humans who have perfect recall of every moment of their lives, but only if those memories are stored in Links, special wood beads worn as jewelry. Someone is stealing Links, and after a night out with friends, a mysterious normal boy approaches Gena and tells her that she knew who it was, before she lost her own memories of the night.

Kalan is my first issue with the book. While Gena got character development, though a lot of it was very surface level, all I know about Kalan is his dad’s a preacher and he believes in God. He works at a garage, but does he like it? Does he go to school? Where are his friends? What does he dream of? I’m supposed to love the character as much as Gena does, but I never felt why. He’s nice, sure, but maybe YA characters should stop falling in love with the first guy who helps them.

Speaking of, the mystery they’re solving is a convoluted mess. It doesn’t help that Gena forgets Kalan and has to start all over three times, which was too many. There are two feuding science companies, corrupt police, missing persons, arson… and yet, it wasn’t very exciting. Except for the actual thief, all the people involved are the shady people the characters have suspected since chapter three. (And the actual thief is so out of left field and ridiculous, it’s not shocking. It’s cheap.)

I don’t read Christian fiction. I don’t find it enjoyable and it doesn’t match my personal values, so I choose to avoid the genre. I really wish there had been some hint in the blurb or the shelving to indicate how preachy the scenes with Kalan’s dad are. The rest of the book certainly has some overtones, particularly in the questions of how memories define our sense of self, but I really almost DNFd at the protracted sermon. It didn’t even add anything new. We already knew the non-Mementi didn’t like the enhanced people. It read like a different book every time the character was on the scene.

The Unhappening of Genesis Lee isn’t a bad debut, but it’s not one for me. There are some good science fiction ideas: the Links, the Mementi graveyard, the Low-G dance club. I really appreciated that Gena loves astronomy and ballet. Too often “smart” characters aren’t allowed to have “girly” interests, too. I liked the diversity, that she was a quarter Chinese and acknowledged that often. Unfortunately, there was just too much I didn’t like to overcome.


  1. I normally love all Science Fiction books but because of the rating you gave this book,I think I'll put a hold on this one. Great review! I'm glad you review Sci fi books. I'll be sure to check out your reviews as you write them!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

  2. This one sounded like an interesting concept, but I wasn't sure about it. I actually don't mind Christian fiction, and even enjoy it at times....but not when it gets 'preachy'. I'll pass on this one.


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