Books: Playing God!

Lucy, by Laurence Gonzales     Photo: Courtesy of Knopf

It's hard enough being a teenager today. Just try it if you're half ape. That's the deal in Laurence Gonzales's coming-of-age-except-I'm-also-part-bonobo biotech thriller, Lucy (Knopf, $25, July). Raised in the Congo by her scientist dad, Lucy is orphaned when insurgents attack their camp; she's scooped up by a neighboring primatologist, an American named Jenny, and the two leave the jungle for weirder terrain: suburban Chicago. Boy, is Jenny surprised when Dad's notebooks reveal what the reader already suspects: Lucy's mom is a bonobo, artificially inseminated by the scientist. Lucy, it turns out, is beautiful, quotes Shakespeare, and prefers to nest in trees. But she's got some 'splaining to do when she tosses a wrestler across her high-school gym. Before long, things turn mighty dark for our girl as she juggles YouTube, her budding sexuality (bonobos are omnivorous lovers), and guys in white coats who chase the teen, hoping to open her skull in the name of research. Gonzales goes over the top with Lucy's perspective on our fallen American lives—OMG, high school is just like the jungle!—but mainly this is an enjoyable ride that makes you think (just not too much) about what it means to be human.

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