Lakewood by Megan Giddings
Lena Johnson is trying to cope with the recent death of her grandmother and her mother Deziree’s debilitating health issues while dealing with the mounting medical debt.
She receives an invitation to take part in The Lakewood Project, a series of research studies. The offer seems too good to be true: high pay, family health insurance with no out of pocket expenses, and housing provided.
The catch? Lena has to participate in a secret program and cannot disclose any details to her family and friends. Despite the limited details, she applies anyway. Her mother’s health will continue to suffer without medical coverage and the pay would allow her to pay off their debt while also saving so she can return to college.
Lena arrives in the remote town of Lakewood, Michigan and is given a “cover story”: she works for Great Lakes Shipping Company as a dispatch operator. To the small town of Lakewood, it appears to be like any other trucking/warehouse company.
Lena will actually spend her time in research studies but will be given a card with small made up details about her work day to share with family and friends.
At orientation, Lena discovers the study participants are all black, Indian, or lantix with the exception of one older white woman. The group is told their research will benefit countless people. Among the many studies performed, they will be testing pills that could potentially cure dementia and eyedrops that can temporarily change eye color.
What is not discussed are the potential consequences of these studies. The participants have all signed NDAs and understand they’ll be compensated for side effects and injuries but no one will discuss these possibilities at length.
It isn’t long before Lena witnesses the horrors of the research trials, first in other participants and eventually in herself. There are people watching at all times. In fact, she begins to wonder if the entire town of Lakewood is part of the study.
Lakewood is a provocative medical thriller that raises questions about the very real struggles working-class families face, sacrifices made, and the history of horrific experiments performed on minorities under the guise of scientific advancement.
The atmosphere is intense, I felt a sense of unease the entire time I was reading! As the events become more horrific and Lena becomes more confused, my sense of paranoia was heightened and I didn’t trust a single character or reject a single possibility.
My sole issue is that the story felt disjointed as it switched between third person and first person narration. We’re given brief horror scenes and unsettling interviews Lena endures in third person while reading her confused and anxious thoughts written in a series of letters to her best friend. It felt like a collection of scenes rather than a full-fleshed novel. The foundation is absolutely there but the structure wasn’t as cohesive as I needed it to be to deliver the full story.
Thanks to Amistad and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. Lakewood is scheduled for release on March 24, 2020.