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The Empathy Academy, by Dustin Grinnell

At an experimental school on Nantucket Island, Montgomery Hughes discovers a dark secret.

In 2032, biotech entrepreneur Sonja Woodward has created a genetic test that can identify a predisposition in teenagers for unethical behavior before they reach adulthood. Those who test positive are sent to Woodward Academy on Nantucket Island. Montgomery Hughes, a high school senior, is among the first students sent to the school.

But Monty is there under false pretenses. He switched his test score with another student’s and is using an alias to hide his identity. Haunted by his disgraced father’s scandal, Monty is convinced he’s a bad seed. At Woodward, Monty discovers a dark side to Sonja’s ethics-intervention school. Students who don’t respond are treated in a secret lab with a technology that alters genes associated with empathy: the equivalent of a high-tech lobotomy. When Monty’s identity is revealed, Sonja’s gene-editing “cure” offers her the perfect opportunity for punishment—and Monty is scheduled for treatment.

The Empathy Academy by Dustin Grinnell is a high-concept philosophical novel that explores the science and perils of using genetic technology to predict and enhance complex human behavior. Would society be possible without empathy? Is everyone born with it? And can empathy be taught to those who don’t have it?

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