Everyone in the small town of Melby Falls is enamored of TroDyn Industries–the huge company trying to solve the world’s environmental problems in its complex of labs. Everyone is enamored, that is, except for Mason’s mother who works at the nursing home in town. When Mason snoops into his mother’s locked filing cabinet and discovers her hidden TroDyn Industries ID badge, he storms into the nursing home and demands answers.
Instead of answers about his mother’s past, Mason discovers that his mother doesn’t take care of the elderly as he assumed. She takes care of comatose teenagers. When one of these teenagers, the most beautiful person Mason has ever seen, mysteriously wakes up and demands to be taken away from the nursing home, Mason (who has a bit of a hero complex) is all too willing to oblige.
Thus begins an escape/adventure/quest for answers that unfolds at breakneck speed and takes place over a very short period of time.
Bodeen does a good job of laying out an intriguing and could-almost-be-true premise. There are some interesting concepts that informs the premise as well as issues of climate change and overpopulation. Sometimes these issues are addressed heavy-handedly, but for the characters who are obsessed with them, it’s a believable heavy-handedness.
Bodeen’s focus with “The Gardener” is more on Mason’s journey and the ethical questions raised in the book, so characterizations are naturally light. Mason is believable with believable motivations–we’ve all met the Knight in Shining Armor types—but secondary characters exist mainly to move the story along. These characters provide transportation, shelter, and answers when the plot needs them to. Even Laila, our damsel in distress, is a flat character.
The lack of character development will probably not matter to readers who are more interested in a lightning fast plot with some thought-provoking scientific and ethical issues thrown in for thought and discussion.
The Gardner is a solid choice for reluctant readers who are looking for a quick adventure. It might also interest teens who like biology, ethical dilemmas, or are interested in environmental issues. Avid readers will figure out where the story is going long before Mason does and might be a little frustrated that he isn’t a little quicker.
The audiobook version of “The Gardener” is worth a listen—especially for reluctant readers. It’s narrator, Luke Daniels, captures Mason’s voice very well and does a good job of distinctly voicing each character.