Book reviews

Book Review: THE GARDENER by S.A. Bodeen


“Mason has never known his father, but longs to. All he has of him is a DVD of a man whose face is never seen, reading a children’s book. One day, on a whim, he plays the DVD in front of a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mother works. One of them, a beautiful girl, responds. Mason learns she is part of a horrible experiment intended to render teenagers into autotrophs―genetically engineered, self-sustaining life-forms who don’t need food or water to survive. And before he knows it, Mason is on the run with the girl, and wanted, dead or alive, by the mysterious mastermind of this gruesome plan, who is simply called the Gardener. – Summary from Amazon

So, I just got done reading this book (Like, literally just closed the book) and if you want the short version of this review: This was a very enjoyable book. It’s short, it’s fast-paced, it’s fun, it has a happy ending, but the romance (if we could even really call it that?) was just okay. I wasn’t upset with it or anything but I would have been alright if there wasn’t one either. I recommend this book if you want something quick and fun, for a break between a long book series, or to get you out of a book slump. I wish I had read this when I was going through mine! But ahh well.

Long version 🙂

What initially drew me to this book was the whole “greenhouse growing humans/being genetically engineered” thing. I don’t know why that interests me when it comes to new books but it does. I don’t understand science (nor have I ever been good at it) but any book with genetic engineering in the synopsis, you have my complete attention.

The main character is a 15-year-old boy named Mason who suffered a terrible accident when he was younger and is now left with a horrible scar along one side of his face. He’s being raised by a single mother with no money. He’s quiet, he’s a nerd, and he’s big. I loved that the author did not make him your typical-badboy-brooding-stud-that-we-always-see-in-a-YA-novel even though Mason has more than enough reasons to take on that persona. And when we find out Mason’s ethnicity it made me happy. Although it did not have a major role in the story, it is not one that we see in YA or children’s novels very often, if at all. Mason was a well-developed character, even though when ish hit the fan he was a bit rash at times, but I enjoyed reading from his point of view.

The book was well written in my opinion and anything pertaining to science and genetics was put in simple enough terms that younger readers would understand and enjoy. Although turning humans into autotrophs seems pretty far-fetched, in the book it was believable. And that is all I ask for in science fiction and fantasy; make it as far-fetched and out-of-this-world as you want, but make me believe it. And in this case, I believed it.

The romance between Mason and the girl he finds (her name is Laila) was just okay. It had potential but never had the chance to really take off because of the whole “running out of time/being on the run” aspect of the story. Love was not confessed but the relationship that was there was still insta-lovey. They literally only knew each other for around 30 hours and Mason was claiming he “felt whole” when being with her and had no problem risking his life to save her. This is all great for adventure and all, but I am not a fan of instalove. I am, however, a fan of the whole star-crossed lovers/love between two different species spiel. Again, I don’t know why lol but when I read about love between a human and an autotroph, or human and an alien, or a human and a cyborg (etc, etc…) it’s just a zinger right into my fangirl heart. And even though the romance was just “meh” for me, the fact that this was a romance between two different species with the “running out of time” looming over, it kind of worked.

This is a book with a happy ending so no need to grab the Kleenex and prepare for heartaches. For the younger aged readers, this book wrapped up nice and clean but not so clean where it made the book corny. But for me as an older reader, I was left with some questions. Only a few, but to refrain from any spoilers, I will not pose them here.

On a deeper note:

If you like to go deep into books and possible meanings they might have, this book does cause you to look at the issue of hunger here in the States. (I say the U.S. and not other countries because this book takes place in the U.S. so I can’t really speak for other countries.) With the rate that humans are multiplying, whether it be by child birth or immigration, it is quite possible that in the future there will be more bodies than available food. Sure we have technology and can create all types of things that can increase food production or increase the sheer size of food (which we already do), but what about the families that still go hungry even with the use of this technology due to not having any money? What if there was a way to completely end human starvation without having to spend hundreds of dollars on food? What if we could be self-sustaining life forms that thrived off of the Earth? Would we take better care of the Earth then? Would we slow down global warming? Would the human race live on forever?

This book poses a lot of questions like this if you really think about it. But if you just want a fun ride and a quick adventure without all the seriousness then you can get that out of this book as well.

Overall, I gave this book a 4 out of 5 stars. I took off half a star for the instalove. I took off the other half for a few unanswered questions. I would recommend this book to anyone 🙂


Fast-paced, quick read (less than 300 pgs), happy ending, well-written, fun book


Insta-love, unanswered questions (some of you might not have questions, so take this con with a grain of salt)

If you read this book, be sure to come back and let me know your thoughts about it! 🙂


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