Westminster College faculty member Christine Seifert made a name for herself with an analysis of a mega-popular young adult series. In her own new novel, she offers her own take on a potentially doomed teen romance. ---
Fresh off the inclusion of her essay on Twilight as “abstinence porn” in 2010’s Best Sex Writing 2010 anthology, Seifert serves up The Predicteds, a provocative pseudo-sci-fi premise. Daphne Wright is the new girl at a small-town Oklahoma high school, where a troubled student has just been on a shooting spree. But the school has also been the site of a unique experiment. A revolutionary computer program called PROFILE—developed by Daphne’s mother—may be able to combine the results of genetic and psychological tests to determine if a young person is destined for substance abuse, antisocial behavior … even violent crime. So what happens to those whose results label them as “Predicted”?
Seifert uses that concept as an allegory for exploring the madness of crowds in our attempt to pretend we can eliminate frightening uncertainties from our lives. She crafts a terrific scene at a PTA meeting, where alarmed parents begin insisting on draconian steps to separate the Predicteds from their own children; one in particular insists her own gut feeling matters just as much as information from a (air quotes included) “scientist.” In the guise of a suspense thriller and youth romance, Seifert puts together a surprisingly effective critique of the humanity we sacrifice in the name of security.
As an actual youth romance, it’s not quite as effective. Daphne’s a familiar sort of socially awkward adolescent heroine, and it’s sometimes hard to see the intellectual brilliance Seifert repeatedly asserts. The author’s prose is clean and uncomplicated, appropriate for the first-person perspective, but the moral dilemmas Daphne faces in sorting out her friendships and who to trust don’t always feel like they bear the weight they warrant, nor does the relationship between Daphne and the mysterious Jesse connect on a purely emotional level. As ambitious as it is thematically, it may not hit all the notes required to keep its actual target audience engaged.
It’s promising enough, though, that it’s welcome to contemplate continuing to explore these characters and these ideas. Perhaps as Daphne continues to find herself, Seifert will discover who her protagonist is, as well. And perhaps this series will end up going in places even more interesting than we might be able to predict.
Author event and book signing for Christine Seifert: The Predicteds @ The King’s English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Sept. 7, 7 p.m.