The Gardener by S.A. Bodeen

High-school junior Mason suffered severe facial scarring from a dog attack as a child. People tend to avoid the intimidating six feet three, 230-pound football player. But Mason’s gruff exterior hides a character that is a smart, quiet hero in S.A. Bodeen’s latest bestseller, The Gardener.

Having grown up never knowing his father - except for a DVD of the faceless man reading a children’s book - Mason longs for answers. When he plays the video for a group of comatose teens at the nursing home where his mother works, the inexplicable happens - a beautiful girl wakes up. Mason learns that the teens are part of a hideous experiment designed to create autotrophs - genetically engineered, self-sustaining life-forms who don’t need food or water to survive. The discovery sparks Mason’s heroism, sending him and Laila on the run for their lives as they try to learn who the mastermind behind the gruesome plan is.

Author Bodeen laces this sci-fi tale with commentary on world hunger, sustainability, and biomedical ethics plus fast-paced action. Though some plot points are a bit too convenient, the book offers plenty of room for discussion - the food crisis, global warming, and the ethics of bio-engineering.