Ringer

Book review by
Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media
Ringer Book Poster Image
Two fast-paced, exciting clone thrillers in one book.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Explores ethical issues of cloning and experiments on human clones. Offers some insight into the field of medical research. Raises philosophical questions about what makes us human. Information on the geography and culture of areas in the eastern and southern Unites States.

Positive Messages

Love and connection to other people are what matter. Stay true to your convictions. Fight for the truth and what is right. Learn how to trust others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Gemma is smart and determined. Lyra is smart and determined, too, but naive about the world because she was brought up in a medical research facility. She displays dubious ethics sometimes, mostly due to how she's been raised and treated. Pete is a steadying influence in Gemma's life. He takes great risks to help her and keep her safe. Kristina is complicated. She loves her daughter so much that she protects her too much, but her love and loyalty are never in doubt. Detective Reinhardt goes above and beyond the call of duty to help Lyra and Caleum.

Violence

Many violent scenes and violent interactions, including a bloody murder scene, a knifing, shootings. Teens are kidnapped and tied up. Character remembers scenes of possible domestic violence. The replicas are treated inhumanely by guards and other staff. For example, they are hit, pushed around, and spoken to rudely. There are references to doctors raping replicas at Haven. Guards molest replicas in return for letting them break rules. Descriptive flashbacks to seeing a dead body killed by hanging. Descriptions of some replicas banging their heads against walls and biting their fingers off. One character kills an injured bird by crushing it under her heel.

Sex

The Gemma-Pete and Lyra-Caleum relationships figure strongly in the plot. References to condoms and having sex in a car. Characters, kiss, make out, feel each other up, and come close to having sex. Lots of language around the girls wanting to feel, taste, touch their boyfriends. A replica exposes her breasts in return for a favor.

Language

Swearing is mostly for emphasis and not frequent: "ass," "f--k" and its variations, "s--t" and its variations, "God," "d--k," "bitch," "bulls--t," "Jesus," "Christ," and "hell."

Consumerism

Most brands mentioned for descriptive purposes or scene setting, including BMW, Volvo, Jeep, Coke, Altoids, Target, 7-Eleven, Greyhound, Hanes, Advil, Sudafed, Kmart, McDonald's, Dunkin' Donuts, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twizzler.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drunk house guest at a dinner party. Birthday party with adults drinking. Teens smoke pot and drink beer at a party. Teens smoke cigarettes in a few scenes. Gemma's mom pops a lot of prescription pills with wine as a way to cope with unhappiness.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Ringer, a sequel to Replica by Lauren Oliver, is a sci-fi thriller about human cloning and government conspiracy. Like the first book, it's two separate stories in one volume, which can be read separately or as alternating chapters. In both stories, the main characters, Gemma and Lyra, are on the run -- away from people hunting them and toward answers to the mysteries around the surviving clones and ongoing research. The stories are heavy on suspense and action sequences, with many violent situations, such as shootings, a knifing, and inhumane treatment of clones. Gemma and Lyra each have a boyfriend, and romance figures in the plot. There are descriptions of making out, kissing, and exploring bodies. Swearing is infrequent but includes "f--k" and "s--t." Families will find good discussion topics around the ethics of cloning and medical research and the idea of what makes a person human.

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What's the story?

RINGER is two sci-fi action books in one, each titled after its main character, "Gemma" and "Lyra." As with its predecessor Replica, readers can choose to read each story separately or alternate chapters between the stories. In Gemma's story, she's grappling with her life now that she knows more about the Haven Institute, its clones, and how everything ties in to her past. She can't shake the trauma of being hunted and seeing people die, nor does she feel like she can trust her parents anymore. When she learns that agents are rounding up clones who escaped Haven, she takes off with her boyfriend, Pete, to warn her friends Lyra and Caleum. In a case of mistaken identity, Gemma and Pete are thought to be clones and are hauled off to an isolated detention center housing hundreds of clones. They have no idea what fate awaits them and whether they can trust their only ally on the inside, a sometimes scary clone named Calliope. While Gemma and Pete are trying to survive in detention, Lyra realizes she's in danger and needs to hit the road. She tries to track down Caleum and a doctor from Haven who she hopes can help with her worsening health problems. Lyra's story centers not only on her physical journey but also on figuring out what it means to be human, how to decipher people's actions, and how to love and trust. Having been raised in an institutional setting with clones and researchers, the world is a large and confusing place for her. As both girls get closer to figuring out what is happening with the clones and the valuable research from Haven, the danger heightens and their lives are at risk.

Is it any good?

In these exciting stories of cloning and conspiracy, two girls on the run from danger end up plunging headlong into it. Ringer picks up where Replica left off. The first book explored secrets and conspiracy around cloning humans for research. Ringer deals with the clones' futures and what Haven scientists and government agents might be up to next. A large portion of the book has the teens dealing with dangerous situations, but it's most interesting when it explores their inner lives. After barely escaping when they learned the truth about the Haven Institute, neither Gemma nor Lyra can figure out where they belong in the world. Both feel lost and alone, but for different reasons. Gemma once felt like a normal teen, but she's now struggling to feel like she fits in, given her knowledge of her background and the terrible things she experienced in the first book. Having been raised in a research facility, Lyra is out in the world for the first time and trying to figure out how to be a human.

Ringer is an improvement on Replica in that the stories don't overlap as much, which spares the reader much of the duplication that bogged down the first book. Also, Lyra is a much more compelling character this time around. She learns how to read people, how to be a regular teen girl, how to navigate the world, and how to love. It's still too long for a story that could be told in a lot less space, especially when plot lines involving Gemma's dad and his cronies get short shrift. Exploring more of the players in the conspiracy would have added a lot of interest to the story.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why cloning is such a popular theme in science fiction such as Ringer. What might be the consequences of cloning human beings? What kinds of rights should clones have?

  • What do you think makes us human? What qualities give us our humanity that other creatures don't have?

  • Books with chapters that alternate narrators or point of view are quite popular. Why do you think this storytelling style works or doesn't?

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