Wake Up Missing, by Kate Messner;
Walker Children’s Books: New York, 2014; $7.99
"The most terrifying thing about hitting your head so hard is when you wake up missing pieces of yourself.” This is what the main character, Cat, tells the reader near the beginning of Kate Messner’s novel, Wake Up Missing. Cat is a twelve-year-old girl who has a concussion from falling off of an observation platform in a tree while watching birds. She gets headaches and nauseated, and she has balance problems and holes in her memory.
Cat wants desperately to be whole again, so her parents send her to I-CAN, an advanced neurology clinic in the Florida Everglades, which they learned about online. Scientific American called it the “Miracle Clinic in the Swamp.” Cat tells us, “I thought if I went to I-CAN I’d wake up found.” But she and three other kids she meets there, all with similar head injuries, bit by bit and that things at I-CAN are not what they seem to be. Cat sees a newspaper headline that says, “Florida Senator Promises Crackdown on Nations That Harbor Terrorists: Wiley Says Military Intelligence Committee Has ‘Secret Weapon.’” She doesn’t know at that time that she and I-CAN are involved.
I liked the fast-paced adventure, which kept me reading as the children discover they are part of a top-secret government project. The doctors in charge of I-CAN plan to replace their DNA and memories with the DNA and memories of dead scientists like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein.
I am really into genetics and things to do with the brain. Could our memories and DNA be replaced with someone else’s memories and DNA? Is it even moral to replace a person’s memories? Is it all right to replace them without the person knowing? These are questions that the book made me think about.
In the science-fiction world of the book it is possible to replace memories and DNA, though one of the characters named Kaylee ends up with a brain tumor from the procedure. Another character, Trent, has had his mind altered, replaced with Thomas Edison’s DNA and memories. Trent can’t remember his own life, including his family. Instead, the only thing he thinks about is alternating current, which from another book I was reading I know is not true. Actually, Thomas Edison was into direct current, not alternating current. But it did not really hurt the flow of the adventure.
I would not want a brain tumor like Kaylee, but I don’t know how I would feel about having the brain of Edison or Einstein. If I was one of the kids who found out about the plot, I do not know if I would be like Cat, who just wants to be restored to her former self and escape, or if I would be like Ben, a boy in the story who wants to be turned into a new Einstein.
I had read some about Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein already, but not so much about the other scientists the children were going to be turned into: Marie Curie, Robert Oppenheimer, Lise Meitner, and Beatrice Schilling. But after reading the book, I wanted to learn more.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys an exciting action-adventure story with science and science-fiction intermingled in the plot.