For reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, Altered just didn’t do it for me. It’s the opposite of the well-known saying “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Taken individually, the elements of the novel sound pretty interesting. There are secret codes, impossibly attractive young men with superhuman abilities, an escape from a laboratory in which the young men have been genetically altered, messages left in safe-houses, dark government secrets, etc. All of these components sound great, but when put together in a storyline they just don’t click.
Part of the problem might be that the stakes never feel very high, so the action and suspense fall flat. Sam, Nick, Cas, and Trev have spent several years of their lives in a laboratory being tested and observed, but they don’t seem to be mistreated, nor do they seem to be more than mildly upset about their containment. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying it’d be pleasant living in a lab – but the conditions don’t seem terrible, and the boys don’t appear to be tortured or abused in any way.
Cas is so lighthearted, and Trev so thoughtful, that there’s no weight behind their “suffering” at the hands of the Branch. Also, while Nick is pretty grumpy, I got the impression that this could just be attributed to his general personality rather than the fact that he’s a genetic experiment. The only person who seems to legitimately have an issue with the Branch is Sam, and even then it seems as if he is fighting them less out of a fear that they’re a threat to society and more because he has a personal vendetta against them.
Altered just didn’t hold my attention, and I found my mind wandering almost constantly while reading it. Anna is a likable character, and Sam is mysterious, troubled, and occasionally even alluring, but this just wasn’t enough to keep me interested.