In The Equals, themes of justice, discrimination and terrorism mix with actual science to create a frightening version of our near future in Daniel Sweren-Becker's action-packed sequel to The Ones.
What happens when your own government turns against you?
The Equality Team continues to round up and subject The Onesthe 1% of the American population who were genetically engineered in vitroto a vaccine that will level the playing field. Desperate to save her boyfriend James from this fate, Cody flees into the wild to seek assistance from a shadowy rebel group dedicated to equal rights for the Ones at any cost.
But when she grows closer to a radical named Kai, she's brought deeper into the fold, only to realize the group's leader has a secret plan more dangerous than Cody could have imaginedsomething that could change the course of the Ones' future.
Praise for The Ones (book 1):
"Chilling and frighteningly real, The Ones leads us down a dark rabbit hole of scientific possibilities, fractured morality, and brutal consequences. It forces the question: If perfection becomes a liability, how far are we willing to go in the pursuit of it or to stop it?"Kami Garcia, #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Beautiful Creatures and author ofThe Lovely Reckless
"Like watching your favorite TV show, The Ones is a thrill ride with a new shock at every turn. You won't believe what happens next, and yet, you should. Because this reality is all too possible." Melissa de la Cruz, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Isle of the Lost and the forthcoming Something In Between
“A gripping and cautionary tale. A thrilling read.” Brendan Reichs, New York Times-bestselling coauthor of the Virals series.
"The basic premise for this captivating tale is much closer to practical concern than many might imagine. It is crucial that we visualize many possible scenarios like this one so that we can humanely respond to (or better yet anticipate) new technologies and the consequences for new babies. We hopefully will not punish the latter for the shortcomings of the former, and books like this will help us all engage with the key issues, technical and moral." George Church, Professor of Genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves
About the Author
Daniel Sweren-Becker is a New York-born, Los Angeles-based television writer, author and playwright. He honed his craft at fine institutions like New Horizons Daycare Center, The Ethical Culture Fieldston School, Wesleyan University, and NYU. His handwriting has yet to stop him. He is the author of the novels The Ones and The Equals.
Read an Excerpt
Three weeks earlier
CODY COULD BARELY breathe. It had nothing to do with the thick cloud of ash that descended on her or the grueling trek through the woods. No, the vise grip on her chest was entirely about James.
As she ran free, he was in chains. And even worse, she ran free because he was in chains. He had come back for her. Saved her. Sacrificed himself for her. His reward for all that was being apprehended by his own brother and an Equality Team, shipped off to an internment camp, and subjected to the Vaccine — the government's brutal attempt to somehow undo the genetic engineering bestowed upon the Ones.
Cody had watched James's capture from across the river, helpless to intervene. Now she knew that if by some miracle she ever saw him again, he would be a totally different person. Almost too distracted to run, Cody gasped for air, desperate for it not to be true.
"Come on, Cody, keep moving!" came a yell from up ahead.
Kai stretched back his arm and yanked her over a fallen tree, while Taryn pushed branches out of the way. It was just the three of them now, and Cody was struck by how calm Kai looked. Apparently she was the only one still traumatized by what had happened at the river's edge. It had only been a few minutes, but Kai was already in planning mode.
It was a small relief for Cody to be trailing after him. Kai was the unofficial leader of the New Weathermen, the group fighting back against the government on behalf of the Ones. Although their battle that morning had ended in defeat at the Shasta quarry, she was confident Kai had a contingency plan.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
Kai exchanged a look with Taryn, who seemed equally calm about the whole situation. Cody had to admit that a part of her resented their easy nonchalance. A forest fire was raging behind them, on the far side of the valley they had just crossed. All the other Ones who fought with them had been captured and were on their way to internment camps. From Cody's perspective it seemed pretty bleak. They had nowhere to go, no one to help them.
"We can camp in the woods tonight," Kai said. "But the Equality Teams will still be looking for us tomorrow. We're going to have to disappear."
Disappearing was going to be difficult. There was a federal order for all the Ones to be rounded up, and a travel party with their looks was sure to stick out. Still, Kai and Taryn pressed ahead, into the unknown. Cody followed, but already, in her own mind, a different plan was starting to take shape.
"And what about James?" she said.
"What about him?" Taryn asked. "You saw what happened. Now you need to forget about him."
So much for the brilliant contingency plan, Cody thought. But Taryn's suggestion wasn't going to work, either. Cody knew that forgetting about James was impossible.
She had a promise to keep.
Later that day, after they had put enough distance between themselves and the fire, Cody, Kai, and Taryn stopped at a dry creek bed. A muddy rock overhang provided some shelter, and they collapsed against the angled wall, unlaced their boots, and tossed aside the guns they had been carrying from the quarry. Even in their exhaustion, they were mesmerized by the sight above them; as the sun dipped below the horizon in the distance, the smoldering forest painted the sky with psychedelic reds and oranges.
Cody remembered the beautiful dawn of this same day and couldn't believe everything that had happened since. The New Weathermen had made their stand at the quarry to resist the Equality Team. Cody — suddenly a runaway, a fugitive, an accomplice in the death of her boyfriend's father — had determined she was prepared to die for this cause, and she took up arms against her own government. Somehow, amid all that chaos, she experienced a moment with Kai that was loaded with feelings she was afraid to acknowledge. And he had revealed something to her also — secrets that no one was supposed to know. Again, she was almost too scared to understand him fully. She hadn't even bothered to try at the time, knowing that she was about to die.
And she no doubt would have died, if not for James. He set the fire and led them out of it, then made sure they got away safely. James's actions had provoked an even more powerful feeling, one that she wasn't afraid to name. It was true love. A feeling of desperate attraction, awestruck admiration, and perfect understanding. And then, just minutes after she felt it, her chance to share it was torn away. James had fought to make that brief moment possible. Now it was her turn to get it back.
"We need to save James. I don't care how hard it is," she said.
Kai looked over at her, almost irritated. "Cody, we have to be smart," he said. "Obviously we want to get all the Ones out of the camps. But we can't just run straight after James. We have to think bigger."
"We can't waste any time," Cody said. "They're going to give him the Vaccine. I'm going to save him with or without you two."
Cody stared at Kai and Taryn. They looked exhausted, filthy, and defeated. She was reminded that they were only nineteen, a few years older than her. And she knew their dreams of a successful rebellion had taken a powerful hit that morning.
Kai had promised they would win the day or become echoes — everlasting reminders of the fight for freedom. But somehow neither of those results had come to pass. They were just tired and dirty and stuck in the woods. Cody could hardly believe it.
She stood up. "Seriously — I am going after James." She waited, but no one moved. "You're really just going to lie here? Kai? Is this how you planned to end 'the loudest day of our lives'?" Kai wouldn't meet Cody's eyes. But Taryn glared at her.
"You heard him," Taryn said. "We can't risk it right now. A lot of people got taken today. A lot of our friends. So how 'bout you sit down and quit whining about it."
Kai touched Taryn on the arm. "It's fine. Let her go if she needs to." He turned to Cody. "I'll understand if you go alone, and I won't stop you. It's stupid and it's reckless, but I'll understand."
"Wow," Cody said. "So you're just a phony with a cool motorcycle and a nice speech?" Disgusted, she started to gather her things. "Good luck with the rest of your revolution."
Cody could see that Kai wanted to respond, but he swallowed it. There was that ice-cold self-control again. Kai's emotions were his and his alone to reveal.
She stood up and looked out from under their embankment. Night had descended upon the pine trees, but a bright moon filtered through. Cody didn't know exactly where to start, but she knew that she couldn't help James from here. James had saved her all on his own, and he was a choirboy, allergic to trouble. She didn't need Kai and Taryn. She'd do it herself.
But as Cody stepped away from their meager campsite, she heard a shotgun cock behind her. She turned around to find Taryn pointing the gun up at her.
Cody froze, surprised and confused. Kai tried to reach out and gently take the gun from Taryn. But Taryn rose to her feet, stepped forward, and kept it leveled at Cody.
"You're not going anywhere."
"Taryn. Put the gun down, okay?" Kai said softly. Cody looked at him, pleading with her eyes for him to intervene. "Just let her go," he said.
"Believe me, I'd love to. But I can't," Taryn said.
With her heart racing, Cody finally had the nerve to lash out at Taryn. "What's your problem? I mean besides the sullen attitude, the fake toughness, the practiced condescension — what's your problem with me?"
Cody had a guess. It was probably the way that Kai looked at her that pissed Taryn off so much. Now she wondered if Taryn would actually cop to it.
Taryn just laughed, though. "Let's start with the fact that you're a liar. That you're not even a One. And then add that you need to be rescued every two minutes like some helpless puppy dog. First you get caught by the cops at the school takeover. Then you run into the blast zone when we bomb the vaccine lab. And today you get us stuck in a forest fire. I'm tired of having to look out for your utterly normal, non-genetically-engineered ass."
Cody's anger made her forget that she was staring at the wrong end of a shotgun. "I didn't get us stuck in that fire; James did. And you'd be dead if it wasn't for him. That's the person I am going to save. So how about you let me leave? Wouldn't that make you happy?"
"I'd throw a freaking parade," Taryn said, then paused. "But unfortunately for all of us, I heard what Kai told you."
Instantly, Cody could see that this changed everything. And Kai grimaced, too — it was clear that he knew Taryn was right.
Taryn turned to him. "You shouldn't have told her that stuff."
"I thought we were about to get killed," Kai said. "She deserved to know."
Cody knew what this was about now. It was about Edith Vale and the Ark.
That morning, Kai had started to tell her a secret that didn't make any sense. Prior to that, Cody had only known that Edith Vale was the government agent who had released the list of Ones, exposing them all to targeted persecution. And the theoretical, gigantic, secret Ark was the reason why Agent Norton had tortured Cody so ruthlessly. Edith Vale and the Ark shouldn't have anything to do with each other.
But Kai had implied something different. He said Edith Vale was at the Ark right now. He said Cody would have enjoyed meeting her.
So the Ark was an actual place. Edith Vale was with the Ones, on their side. And now Taryn was pissed that Cody knew.
"We can't risk her blowing our cover," Taryn said.
"I would never do that," Cody responded.
"Maybe not intentionally. But what if you get captured?" Taryn asked. "Again," she added sourly.
"I already proved I could handle that. They did everything they could to me when I was captured the first time, and I didn't say a word."
Kai stared at her, unmoved, and Cody felt her stomach sink. "Yeah. But that was before you actually knew something. You didn't have anything to reveal," he said. "Taryn's right. I'm sorry, Cody, it's too risky to let you leave by yourself. We have to stay together, the three of us."
"Wow. What a great silver lining," Taryn grumbled sarcastically. But to Cody's relief, at least she lowered the gun.
"I still need to save James. If you're not going to help me, you can either shoot me now or tie me up, but I'm going to sneak off the first chance I get."
Taryn looked at Kai and shook her head. For all their arguing, they were in the same place where they'd started. But Cody saw Kai start to nod, as if he was finally accepting an outcome that was inevitable the whole time.
"There's only one person who can help you save James now," he said, looking Cody square in the eyes. "So let's go to the Ark and meet Edith."
KAI WOKE UP before dawn, as the birds in the trees above them began to squawk in the darkness. He was pissed that both Cody and Taryn were still sleeping. There was a lot to do that day, and they had to get moving. There was a lot to do every day, Kai knew by now. Fighting the entrenched majority for freedom wasn't easy, and Kai had come to accept that he was going to shoulder a disproportionate share of that burden. He didn't resent this duty, though. In fact, he was damn proud of it.
He knew the rest of the Ones needed people like him, people on the front lines who were devoting their lives to this cause. Kai didn't begrudge some of the Ones for being too scared or too young to throw themselves into the fight. They would need to step up eventually, of course. But it was his job to lead the way, to spark that fire, and he was confident they would rise to the occasion.
Kai took his responsibility literally for the moment and got to work poking at the dying embers of their campfire. Small flames kicked back to life, and Kai debated waking up the girls. Maybe it's better to let them rest now, he thought, considering the trek ahead of them. He sat back against the overhang and found himself staring at Cody as she slept, the first light from the sun bouncing warmly off her cheeks.
It was hard to sort out exactly what had happened just a day earlier. So much had gone wrong in their fight against the Equality Team, but Kai's thoughts kept drifting back to that moment with Cody on the ridge. Both of them were certain they were about to die, so they locked hands and shared something. But that moment was impossible for him to understand now, the tenderness so foreign to him, and so unlikely for Cody, that he didn't trust his memory. It was a confusing blur, and most of all, it was a distraction.
Figuring out that moment with Cody wasn't going to help the Ones. And that's all that Kai cared about.
It was a small miracle that Kai was even able to sit around considering this problem. He had woken up the day before prepared to die for this cause, and it had looked like he would do exactly that. The Weathermen at the quarry were surrounded and outgunned. Kai sure as hell would have never let himself be taken away to one of the internment camps, so his death seemed only minutes away. He remembered making his peace with that.
It hadn't exactly been a shock to prepare to die like that. Kai never pictured himself making it to retirement age, kicking back on a rocking chair, playing with his grandchildren. Those were working-stiff aspirations that had never appealed to him. Maybe he had the genetics for a long life, but he definitely didn't have the disposition. So a violent death at nineteen was something Kai considered a job hazard. The fight to protect the Ones was his life's work, and he knew the most likely way it would end.
Kai hadn't figured on James, though. It pissed him off to admit, but James had saved all of them, and in spectacular fashion, no less. He had come out of nowhere to pull off a hell of a move, and it threw Kai for a loop. He had started that day resolved to end up as either a hero or a martyr, yet somehow he was neither. Instead, he was just humbled and indebted to James.
More important, though, he had been given a reprieve. Kai tried to fix his mind only on this: He now had a second chance to accomplish his goals. He wasn't used to getting favors or handouts, so he might as well take advantage of this one. As he sat alone staring into the fire, Kai resolved to keep up the fight and aim higher. First, he would need to make it safely to the Ark and reunite with Edith Vale. They would expand their fight against the government's far-reaching Equality Act. Protect all the Ones who couldn't fight for themselves. Save their peers from the Vaccine. And most enjoyably, strike back at the lunatics in the Equality Movement. Kai began to relish this unlikely opportunity. He would grab it by the throat and accomplish something greater. With this second chance he would live on in the echoes of history, after all.
Newly energized, Kai stood up and brushed the twigs off his clothes. He stepped out from the embankment and walked downhill to a thin stream trickling through the creek bed, where he knelt and cupped some water into his mouth. Spending an afternoon racing away from a forest fire had left him ravenous and dehydrated.
"Save some for me, please."
Kai lifted his head and saw Cody walking up behind him. She was rubbing the sleep from her eyes and stretching her back like a cat. Not for the first time, Kai marveled at the fact that Cody wasn't actually a One. It was still hard to believe someone could look like that without the help of a very talented genetic engineer. As she got closer, Kai finally remembered to stop staring.
"Permission for the prisoner to take a drink?" Cody asked.
"Cody, you're not a prisoner."
"Right. I'm just not allowed to leave."
"We're all going to the Ark. Edith is going to want to liberate James and everyone else just as much as you do. She's going to help us."
"Edith Vale released the List. She changed my life. And she put a target on the back of every One in the country. Why would she help us?" "She's not who you think she is. Trust me."
"How about you trust me? If you're going to hold me hostage over this information, the least you could do is actually tell me the truth," Cody said sternly.
Kai had learned by now that sharing information just made things worse for everyone. When he had hinted about this stuff on the ridge yesterday, he didn't think it mattered anymore. Now he clearly saw that the less Cody knew, the easier it would be to proceed without everyone fighting.
"Edith isn't an enemy. She's on our side.
You'll understand once we get to the Ark." And then Kai couldn't resist pushing Cody's buttons. "And besides, prisoners don't need to be looped in on the plans."
Cody shook her head and tried not to smile. "I'm serious," she said. "Have you met her before?"
"How long have you known her?"
"She reached out a couple years ago, when the New Weathermen were just getting started. Before the List, obviously."
Excerpted from "The Equals"
Copyright © 2017 Daniel Sweren-Becker.
Excerpted by permission of Imprint.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I hadn't actually planned on reading this one after disliking The Ones but I broke down and gave this one a try. Once again I was disappointed with this book and the world the author has created. While the world-building wasn't far fetched in terms of reality and the potential future ahead of us, there was nothing to make it stand out in the dystopian genre for me. The last book featured a lot of disjointed scenes; this one was just predictable. I guessed what happened at each turn and finally resorted to skimming and gained just as much from that. Cody and James still haven't grown on me. Neither is anything more than a name on the page. I felt like you could throw them into just about any dystopian (or contemporary, honestly) book and they'd fit right in. They weren't special, but devices to make it a story. I can see how readers may enjoy these books nowadays, especially, as they aren't so out there that they're unbelievable, but I can't say that I found them enjoyable. Quick, certainly, but reaffirming of my opinion on the genre. I don't know if I'll read anything else by this author in the future but likely not if it's dystopian.