iDENTITY by Cynthia Kumanchik brings the reader into a future that feels like it could be any town, state, or country around the world. Set around 2040, a time when science can make you whatever you would like to be, iDENTITY follows a group of hand-picked citizens through their journey of becoming their ultimate self with the help of a little green pill and some sketchy scientists, who don’t seem to be telling the whole truth abut the project.
The reader is introduced to a handful of wayward souls early in the book who attend a meeting at Optimal, a company that has promised to change their lives, with unpredictable results. Jasmine/Jaz in particular finds out the hard way just how bad the side effects can be when she fails to maintain her pill regimen. Having morphed from a “homely” young woman into a beautiful well-known model, she finds herself transforming back to her true self while on a photo shoot, and while she is able to get everything under control in time it hits a bit too close to home that underneath it all she really is just that homely young woman essentially playing dress-up with the help of science.
Further into the story, as we continue following Jaz and the other characters, we see things start to unravel. Ex’s and old relatives clamor for attention, old friends put new relationships in jeopardy. Transformations start to take drastic and unwanted turns. It seems like the perfect life is falling apart for the participants that attended the meeting at Optimal, and it’s only a matter of time before they realize what they’ve gotten themselves into.
The premise of the novel is phenomenal, and wholly thought-provoking. It makes the reader continually think about going through this kind of life-changing transformation just by taking a pill. Is it cheating, and will it change the true nature of the self? Is it worth the possible consequences? These are questions that the characters ask themselves, and for some the answers are unclear.
While the characters are well-developed and interesting, iDENTITY is structured in such a way that it can be hard to follow at times. Within each section of the book there are multiple characters being followed along their journey, and it can be difficult to keep them straight at any given time. Once the characters have obtained their new identities, many of the characters choose to change their names, which adds another layer of confusion to who is who in the storyline.
The electric premise of iDENTITY makes up for these faults, and keeps you turning the pages, though most certainly it could use some work to clear up these issues to make the novel everything it could be. The book poses such interesting scenarios for each character that you struggle through these problems to see what happens next. With an ending that leaves you wanting more, iDENTITY will have readers eagerly wanting to find out what happens to the group, and how they reconcile their old lives and “ultimate selves.”
Overall, iDENTITY is an entertaining novel filled with romance, science, and suspense, while posing some fascinating questions about the nature of identity. This is a novel to check out for the premise alone, and Cynthia Kumanchik is definitely an author to keep an eye on.
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