|Gary Braver: Gray Matter|
(Hardcover), ISBN 0312876130
Rachel soon feels the pressure to be perfect, to achieve. She can no longer ignore Dylan's learning disabilities. Reading and writing -- things she always thought he would eventually learn -- seem to lie beyond his grasp. When she learns that something she did may have caused Dylan's neurological problems, Rachel sinks into a depressive tailspin. Tormented by guilt, Rachel's feels her actions handicapped her son for life, all for a little fun in college. Desperate to assuage the guilt she feels, and to give Martin the bright boy she feels he deserves, Rachel searches for anything that might help her son.
At first, no magic solution appears. Tutors and special programs won't fix him, won't make him perfect, the gold standard in her neighborhood. He simply cannot grasp word meanings or usage and his mispronunciation of words often embarrasses Rachel and Martin. But Dylan's angelic singing voice, talent in sports and his touching humanity make him a remarkable little boy. Can these things make up for Dylan's 83 IQ?
Rachel's quest to help her son turns up a secret and certainly not FDA approved surgical procedure, known only as "enhancement." The mysterious procedure could help Dylan, but only for a very high fee, and perhaps at the cost of his other talents. Rachel struggles with the ethical implications of buying intelligence and the loss of the son she knows, while Martin slowly becomes obsessed with having a smarter son.
Braver creates a disturbing procedure, all the more unsettling because of its relative plausibility. The ethical complications grow with each page as Braver reveals more of how enhancement works. The world he sets up remains a little unbelievable, a world in which the smartest people are also the most popular and the richest. This may be true to an extent, though when an enhancement promoter tells Rachel and Martin that intelligence will make Dylan's life in high school easier, I laughed out loud. I would love to see the high school where intelligence determines social status, rather than clothes, looks, cars and a myriad of other, decidedly unintellectual factors.
Braver's tale of custom building rich children's intelligence brings a horrifying and meaningful message in an age when human cloning, DNA modification, and the testing and potential selection of desirable fetuses lie within the realm of possibility. His moral message is clear and highlights the benefits of a less traveled road, that of thoughtful moderation.
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