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Book Review: Empathy Academy



Empathy Academy was written by Dustin Grinnell and published by Atmosphere Press in 2022. You can purchase it on Amazon/Kindle and you can visit the author on Amazon and on social media.


The story kept me engaged with the interesting topic of empathy, and the characters were realistic and relatable.

What if someone could create a genetic test that can detect unethical behavior in teenagers before they become adults; using those "bad" behaviors to further corrupt an already dishonest and crooked world? In 2032, biotech entrepreneur Sonja Woodward has done just that. Montgomery Hughes, a high school senior tests positive and is sent to Woodward Academy on Nantucket Island. But all is not what it seems. Monty switched he test score with another student's, and he uses an alias to hide his real identity. Monty's father becomes embroiled in a huge, publicized scandal regarding a cancer treatment and this family embarrassment and shame provides reason for the coverup. Because of his father's unethical behavior, Monty believes that he too is a bad seed. While at Woodward Monty discovers the horror of a gene editing treatment that is administered to other students who lack empathy. Monty learns that the procedure is equivalent to a high-tech lobotomy. Sonja learns of Monty's deception and his "punishment" is to "cure him" of his deceitful and unethical ways. I was intrigued by the concept of this novel. The author explores the idea of what empathy is and what if there was a way to teach it or in the case of this novel, what if there was a way that science could alter our genes to make us "better people"? Should we go with it and if we don't, how do we continue to live in a world that seems consumed with increasing deceit, hatred and violence? These are philosophical questions that the author presents to us in an interesting and entertaining story. I enjoyed the emotional conflict and pull between the son and father and wondered how it would end. The story kept me engaged with the interesting topic of empathy, and the characters were realistic and relatable. Dustin Grinnell shows his intellectual depth as a writer, and I believe he has a promising literary future. I loved Empathy Academy!


I give Empathy Academy 4 out of 5 stars.


Dustin Grinnell is a scheduled guest on The Writers Lounge Blog Talk Radio Show #132 on February 6, 2023.

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