By Ekta R. Garg
November 26, 2014
Rated: Borrow it
A teen gets drafted for a quest that could literally change the world and all of mankind: go back to prehistoric times, find Adam and Eve, and decide whether they should live or die. A teen girl joins the quest, and both young people must use their smarts and their knowledge about the twenty-first century to make their decision. Author William Dietrich challenges readers into thinking about the consequences of a reset of society in the sometimes frenetic, sometimes wandering young adult sci/fi novel The Murder of Adam and Eve.
In an effort to assemble a report for a chance at a college scholarship, Nick Brynner decides to explore an island that law enforcement has deemed “off limits.” Local lore dictates that everyone who has tried to explore the island has disappeared. Nick wants to be the one who comes back with information.
Before he can make the decision to return, however, Nick meets the mysterious Eleanor “Ellie” Terrell. They get sucked into a wormhole, and Ellie becomes his guide-cum-companion. She introduces Nick to Gabriel, the alien being who explains to Nick his mission.
Gabe belongs to the Xu, the intergalactic group responsible for overseeing Earth and other planets. After observing how humans have depleted Earth’s resources, the Xu have decided to give two of the planet’s representatives the chance to travel back in time and either eliminate Adam and Eve, the original ancestors of all mankind—thereby allowing for humans to get a fresh start—or else find some redeemable qualities in the couple and make the case to the Xu to allow them to live.
Despite his initial reluctance, Nick agrees to the quest. The Xu drop Nick and Ellie into prehistoric Africa, the accepted origin of mankind, in order to find Adam and Eve. As Nick and Ellie share experiences and forge their path in Africa, Nick begins questioning the entire mission. When Ellie begins to assert the value of eliminating their ancestors, Nick wonders whether he’ll ever have the chance to go home and return to his own life.
Author William Dietrich poses for YA readers questions to make them ponder not only the origins of life but also the responsibility all people have to take care of our world. Nick grapples with the advantages of the twenty-first century and the attractive prospect of starting the world from fresh to eliminate war and religious, racial and societal differences. Dietrich balances both sides of the argument well, allowing room for readers to come to their own conclusions.
Unfortunately readers might have to wade through some of the weak spots of The Murder of Adam and Eve to find those ponderous moments. Nick’s initiation into the Xu’s world comes at a frenzied pace, feeling rushed and shallow as a result. When he and Ellie arrive in Africa, the story slows down and readers may get the sense they’re treading water and just waiting for the climax…which doesn’t feel so climactic at all. While Dietrich saves a small surprise for the end of the book, it may just evoke a curious “huh” from readers instead of the “OMG!” he clearly wants.
The two main characters don’t always engage with readers either. Nick’s frequent references to pop culture and overuse of clichés, appropriate in some places, start to feel like substitutes for real dialogue. Ellie’s character development becomes a little uneven toward the end. Because these two carry the majority of the story, at some point readers may find their attention wandering.
Still, presented alongside the right prompts the book can act as a good conversation starter. For that reason I recommend readers borrow The Murder of Adam and Eve from their local libraries.