Goodhouse by Peyton Marshall is a dystopian societal thriller where DNA testing weeds out potentially dangerous boys and forces them into boarding schools that resemble prisons (available September 30, 2014).
What’s immediately really strong about Peyton Marshall’s novel is the premise itself. But why tell you myself, when her first pages do such a good job at heavy lifting?
Goodhouse had come out of an idea— a program meant to map the genetic profile of prison populations. What the researchers had found was this: The worst inmates, the most impulsive, the most violent, the least empathetic, all shared certain biometric markers. But these were prisoners. They cost the state millions of dollars to ware house every year. And they’d been children once. They had not always been beyond help. It was too late for adults, but young boys were different. They could be molded, instructed, taught. If intervention occurred at an early age, they could be salvaged.
Based (loosely from what I can tell) on the Preston School of Industry (one the country’s first reform schools), Goodhouse is really ripe with tension from the start. In the not too distant future, we’ve figured out how to identify DNA markers that might – just might – be able to predict violent and criminal behavior in male children. So they all get shipped off to these boys’ schools-cum-juvenile detention centers called “Goodhouses” located throughout the country. Our point of view character is James, a Goodhouse student who recently transferred as his original Goodhouse was burned to the ground by religious zealots. So every scene, every moment not just full of tension, but all sorts of different kinds of tension happening at once.