Book Review: Double Helix, by Nancy Werlin

double_helix_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

I had never heard of Huntington’s Disease until Nancy Werlin introduced me to a young man named Eli Samuels, who’s mother was on the brink of death due to an incurable disease. Although she wasn’t “conscious” for years, Eli still feels it in his heart when the former Harvard professor passes away. But hope comes along in Double Helix, when a famous geneticist named Quincy Wyatt gives Eli a job at his company, Wyatt Transgenics.

The only problem with Eli’s new job is that his father, Jonathan Samuels, dislikes Dr. Quincy Wyatt. Eager to find out why, he ignores his father’s warnings and keeps working for Dr. Wyatt. This thrilling novel takes place in Massachusetts, near Cambridge. You’ll keep turing the pages to find out what happens next.

In the beginning of the book, Eli has a girlfriend named Vivian Fadiman. Eli doesn’t share much with her, like his mother and her disease. This shows a lot about Eli’s identity and how much it changes over the course of the story. The author describes Eli well in this quote, “I was consumed by curiosity… and anxiety. I’d wait all afternoon if I had to” (page 3). Near the beginning of the book, he was anxious to meet the famed geneticist and was very curious of his summoning. Later in the book, his view on things change and became more broad.

One of the major themes in the book Double Helix is that suffering should not be avoided. Sometimes suffering happens, and you have to accept it, not change it. If you pick up this book, you can figure out the mystery of Eli’s parents and Dr. Quincy. Additionally, another theme is that sometime secrecy can be bad. Although you might want to keep secrets to keep one safe, all secrets have faults and eventually will be found out and maybe even result in trust issues.

Another thing I liked about Double Helix was the writing approach that Nancy Werlin took towards this book. She uses many scientific words and terms that are real. One time in the book, Dr. Wyatt and Eli even have a long debate about the world and the way it works. They talked about human choices and free will. Some of their dialogue was like this, “…said Dr. Wyatt. ‘I concede that most humans like to believe in free will. Or call it a soul, is you must’…” (page 52-53). Nancy Werlin uses a wide range of vocabulary, but still gives each character a different personality.

Nancy Werlin’s book Double Helix is an intriguing novel with even more interesting characters. the themes are solid, and the intellectual side of the book is clear. The resolution of the story will keep you wanting more. This is a truly great book, and I recommend for a wide range of readers to read this.

-Andy S., 7th grade

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