Forget magic; IVF blends fantasy with reality in today’s superhero tales.

Welcome to Harry Potter with a female protagonist in a contemporary/future world. Twelve year old Sophie is rescued from her happy earthly exile and taken ‘home’ to another, more advanced world. The forces of good are trying to discover a plot hatched by the forces of evil, and Sophie finds herself in the middle of it.

This contemporary young-adolescent fantasy has many familiar elements: ordinary people who discover they have special powers, solid family relationships disturbed by world-scale events, friendships and rivalry, adolescent crushes, and of course school, exams, punishments and rewards. Characters learn from mistakes, make up for transgressions, and face difficulties with courage.

It has a few surprising things too: in this new magical world where people live forever, work is understood to be fun, because through it one’s life becomes more interesting. What else, they ask, would they do with their time? Now there’s a novel idea for young teens.

However, one particular element is more complicated and makes it difficult to recommend the book. Sophie learns she was created as a genetically enhanced experiment by a group of political activists, artificially conceived in a petri dish, and though her earthly ‘mother’ intended to fall pregnant by IVF, she had no idea where the embryo came from. The only moral dimension of this complex situation explored is that, having learned she was created by the ‘bad buys’, Sophie questions whether she can be any good. She is firmly told that she is very good (and as a person and as someone who has the ability to do good she certainly is), but nothing is mentioned about her method of conception, the deception of her earthly surrogate mother, or the fact that as an embryo she was genetically tampered with.

The author of this book is quite young and has, like the rest of us, become familiar with IVF and the possibilities for custom-made children. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should consider these circumstances a mere fact of life, not warranting moral consideration. Even less should such an assumption be passed on to young teens unchallenged. On the contrary, these matters cry out for further consideration, and fiction that ignores this only tells half the story.

Clare Cannon is the editor of and the manager of Portico Books in Sydney.

Clare Cannon lives in Sydney where she is editor of The Good Reading Guide and manager of Portico Books,...