Cover Image: Lakewood


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Member Reviews

Creepy and All Too Realistic!

This book is definitely a Handmaid's Tale read-alike. It conjures up frightening Utopian societies and worlds that are in our not too distant future.. Don't read this if you are squeamish about medical experiments. I however, found this to be thought-provoking and intense. It brought up questions about "what could our world possibly be like if this were to actually take place?" While this was a scary book to read, it definitely was food for the mind. It's a great book for book club!

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A dazzling debut by an author to watch. It's rare for a debut author to write a solidly written fascinating story but Megan Giddings absolutely accomplished it. With it's strong plot and engaging characters this is one debut book not to be missed. Happy reading!
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This book definitely kept me on my toes and was definitely a page turner. It had me questioning how far could a person go for money. What would I compromise and what really constitutes as acceptable all in the name of research? Lakewood is eerie and more of a mystery than a thriller. It was a quick read but very worth the time. Megan Giddings has definitely left a great debut for those looking for a title that appeals to your inner Angela Landsberry!
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*I was sent a free ARC of this book by HarperCollins Amistad in exchange for an honest review*

This was definitely a highly anticipated read for me! When Lena Johnson’s beloved grandmother dies and she is tasked with taking on her huge medical debt as well as caring for her mother who is suffering from a mysterious set of ailments she takes a job as a participant in a heavily secretive research study that offers her a huge amount of money to be a test subject. Slowly but surely things start to go wrong at Lakewood and Lena must choose between continuing the job to get the money she so desperately needs and the uncertainty of her future and the safety of her loved ones if she chooses to continue in the study.

I was definitely absorbed in this book from the very beginning. The dynamic between Lena and her mother is so loving and real and I absolutely adored their dialogue and Lena’s care when Deziree was having her “episodes.” They were easy to root for and kept me anchored in the harder to follow parts of the story. I was also very intrigued by the research facility and the way that they were made to craft entire fake lives for themselves as they kept in touch with the outside world. It was very eerie and unsettling to see Lena interact with those around her as if she was an office worker. I also really liked the format of reading the story as letters to Tanya.

Although there were many elements of this story that I thought were very well done, it ultimately didn’t come together and fully work for me. Surprisingly, I found her time at the research facility dragged in the middle, and while the drug tests and interviews were quite interesting, they didn’t seem to build on each other or be connected in a way that made clear the stakes of the endeavor. It felt like everything was a bit too shrouded in secrecy, so much so that as a reader I wasn’t quite sure what was supposed to be run-of-the-mill unsettling and what was supposed to be particularly bad during her time there. It just didn’t quite build to the crescendo in a way that seemed cohesive or made logical sense to me as a reader. That being said, I really liked the other characters/participants in the office setting. I thought the resolution was great and bringing the very real history of the US subjecting black people to so many awful and unethical experiments really left me thinking about the story long after I finished it. 

If I could, I would give this 3.5 stars - not a great read but definitely a GOOD one.
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I'm not going to be surprised when Jordan Peele buys the movie rights for Lakewood by Megan Giddings. 

A look at race, class, and how science has abused the most vulnerable over and over and over. Lakewood is scary - but not in a ghosts and goblins way - more in a way that is so familiar, so recognizable. 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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Many thanks to NetGalley, Amistad, and Megan Giddings for the opportunity to read and review her debut novel - a disturbing account of race, class and things that have been done to others in the name of medicine, science and government.  Definitely similar to the Tuskegee and Nazi human experiments and Henrietta Lacks.

Lena is trying to go to college and still deal with being the caretaker for her mother who has suffered seizures and many issues since an accident years ago.   When her beloved grandmother dies, the extent of the family's debt is realized.   Lena is offered the opportunity to take part in some memory experiments at a government research facility - she will be paid well, receive health care for herself and her mother.  However, she must sign NDAs and must lie to everyone about where she is and what she is doing.  

So much to discuss in this book - How much are we willing to do and accept to better our lives and those of our families?  Why is one section of society the subject of experimentation by another section?  

Amazing debut and certainly much to ponder.
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Not a chance I'll participate in one of those medical studies after reading this novel!  Lena's beloved grandmother, who was more her mom than her mother was, has just died and Lena's trying to figure out how to stay in school and pay a lot (a lot) of bills.  Her mother Deziree has a difficult, not fully diagnosed condition.  When an offer to participate in a USG study arrives, she takes it, thinking she'll be able to pay off bills and put some cash away, never expecting that she will see and experience things no one should ever have to face.  It is notable that all of the subjects the study are people of color while the workers at the facility are Caucasian.  Lena's fever dreams (for want of a better term) are psychedelic and horrible.  There are periodic letters to her friend and letters from her grandmother (the transitions on these were rough).  While I appreciate that the publisher wants to draw some sort of comparison, Lena's situation is nothing like that of Henrietta Lacks (this is the doctors experimenting on her and causing mental and physical problems , not using her cancer cells for research) nor to the woman of the Handmaid's Tale.  This is well done horror with social commentary that won't hit you over the head.   Thanks to the publisher for the ARC.   It kept me turning the pages.
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After her grandmother passes, Lena searches for financial comfort since her mother is medically unwell. She receives a letter offering more than enough to provide the comfort she needs if she moves to Lakewood and submits herself to the Lakewood Project. Accepting, Lena finds herself as part of a human experiment group.

I enjoyed this debut young adult novel. It was a quick and easy read with a dark atmosphere. Lena's race and socioeconomic status were rightfully featured as doormat for the government's testing purposes. I kept wondering what was going to happen to Lena and the others that were part of the experiment group. There are a lot of unanswered questions for the greater half of the novel that build the readers suspense.

But at times it felt repetitive, and I just wanted the story to get on with it and progress. For example, the experiment group would do something they were told and the observers would watch what happened; this seemed to cycle around regularly for several chapters. The ending felt rushed for me. I didn't feel complete closure for the full character of Lena. It skipped over a lot of the emotional and intellectual depth that was disclosed at the beginning.

Various though-provoking topics and questions surfaced throughout the story as a result of Lena's background. What boundaries do humans have, and how do we set those boundaries? What are we willing to do to ensure the survival of our family and health insurance for ourselves and/or our loved ones? How do we justify the monetary value placed on someone else's life?

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy. Opinions are my own.
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Lena had to leave college to help her family after the death of her grandmother reveals their desperate financial situation. She takes a job that sounds too good to be true, a free place to live and a lofty salary. She just has to keep her mouth closed about what goes on at Lakewood . It all sounds good, a potential cure for dementia and depression and even drops to change your eye color. But the “cures’ being perfected here are more sinister and disturbing than Lena realizes. This is a terrifying novel about human guinea pigs, a society where some lives are expendable
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This was such a unique and captivating read. It centers around a young woman dealing with life circumstances that affect so many in today's world. After the death of her grandmother, Lena is responsible for taking care of her  sick mother, while attending college and navigating through the adult world. But when she realizes the extent of the debt left, and how that will impact her mother's ability to receive treatment for her mysterious symptoms, Lena starts considering her employment options. 

When an opportunity arrives for her to participate in a research study, with free healthcare for her mother and a generous stipend, Lena doesn't see any other options. As I read through the book, I was more shocked and outraged about a process that has happened numerous times throughout history. 

The story is told in down-to-earth prose that made me feel like it could happen to anyone, while mixing in fragments of Lena's experiences during the study. The themes of race and class interwove with the difficult position of people who have (or care for someone) with chronic illness and how the system shortchanges all of these vulnerable groups. Perhaps the most distressing part of the book was the fact that this isn't just a made up concept - that some groups of humans are deemed "less valuable" than others, and fodder for medical or psychiatric experimentation that are far from ethical. 

It was a powerful and eye-opening read, even though it wasn't necessarily an easy read. While it wasn't traditionally enjoyable, it made me think about the lengths we go to care for the people we love, and I'm glad I got the opportunity to read it.
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I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book, but what I can say is that several days after finishing it, I still can’t stop thinking about it.

LAKEWOOD by Megan Giddings follows Lena, a young black college student with an ill mother to take care of, and whose beloved grandmother has recently passed away. Lena decides to take part in a secret medical experiment to pay off her family’s debts, and so that she can afford better healthcare for her mother. But what Lena thinks will be a harmless sacrifice on her part turns out to be her worst nightmare: she is treated as a human guinea pig, and her body is abused in the process.

Although a work of fiction, LAKEWOOD recalls certain real-life medical research studies that were performed on marginalized groups, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study and the case of Henrietta Lacks. I had to remind myself at times that I was reading a work of fiction, because that’s how immersive and realistic this book is in depicting the torture and racism that Lena endures. Ultimately, LAKEWOOD questions how much it takes to completely disregard basic human rights, and that we’re perhaps not as progressive a society as we like to think. This book is a brutal look at the racism and classicism embedded in US history, and it’s unlike any medical thriller out there. 

This review will be posted to my main platform,, by March 30th, 2020.
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Part Get Out, part The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this book attempts to take on race and class in the form of horror story. While the premise is solid, it unfortunately feels a little bit stale at this point with other stories in the media in recent.

Lena is a struggling student. Her grandmother has recently passed away, and her mom who has always had issues is a problem for her. Lena is responsible for unpaid medical bills now and is really feeling the stress of her situation. One day she receives a letter asking if she is interested in joining a research study. She will have housing and a good salary. She is so desperate ,she leaves school and moved to Michigan to take this opportunity.

What happens next is quite a horror show. The testing they do to Lena and others in the study are just ridiculous. Changing eye colors, teeth falling out and so much other. This drives Lena and other to realize what they are really willing to give up for money.

This is an interesting book that I think would be wonderful for book clubs as there is a lot to discuss outside of this horrible medical testing. The author gives us lots of insight through diary snip-its and conversations with family and friends. I definitely think this is worth reading.

Thank you NetGalley and Amistad for an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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A strange and unsettling story that will have you caught between thoughts that this could really happen, and No, it could never happen. There is just enough reality in both Lena and her life situation to keep the reader on the edge of imagining a new reality where this kind of medical experimentation could happen. And though Lena seems very naive at times, the reader can identify with her desperation. This would be a good read for a book club.
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Oh I wanted to give this book more stars so bad. The premise feels so much like the Tuskegee Project, experiments giving black men syphillis, not providing the penicillin cure, and recording what happened. What unfolds is less of a mystery, way more confusing, more sinister but with less of a true villain. Truthfully, I was confused 80% of the time and feel that many of the threads of the story either don’t add up or aren’t answered. 

After Lena’s grandmother passes away, Lena signs up for a research study in order to make money to pay her moms medical bills and keep her in health insurance. What proceeds in a mind-mess of confusion where the reader doesn’t know what is real and what isn’t. Lena is subjected to horrifying experiments, loses big chunks of time, and struggles to fully understand what is happening to her. As a sinister story of how the government takes advantage of its most vulnerable, Lakewood doesn’t full measure up. I wanted more: a chapter told from a different point of view, background as to what is actually happening, some more resolution. Overall, I did not enjoy this at all and I am so bummed. 

*ARC received from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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I will definitely need to reread this book because I flew through it. The story is compelling, albeit horrifying, and so well-written that the dread almost sneaks up on you. I've already recommended it to several people and I will definitely be buying a copy when it comes out!
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One of the strangest books I’ve ever read, and I loved it. I was surprised I didn’t have nightmares! This book is unique, but if I had to describe it, I’d say it’s a mash-up of Get Out and Never Let Me Go, plus a dose of terrifying actual history (and current events) in the U.S.
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What would you do for money and health insurance? It’s the kind of question that makes terrible sense in contemporary America. So many of us work hard for low wages to keep ourselves in shelter, food, and health care. It’s also the question that, in part, fuels Lakewood, by Megan Giddings. This novel is disturbing and infuriating, in the way that only really good satire can be.

At the beginning of Lakewood, Lena Johnson is in a tough position. Her grandmother has just died. Her mother is unable to work due to an undiagnosable condition. Lena is trying to work and go to college, but there’s just not enough money to make that possible. When she gets word of a lucrative research study that also offers health insurance for participants and their families, Lena can’t pass up the opportunity. The red flags about the Lakewood project—scary NDAs, no informed consent document, no declaration of who is in charge, barely any information about what the study actually entails, the elaborate cover story Lena is supposed to use if anyones asks—would have scared off anyone who wasn’t as desperate as Lena.

Lena would’ve been better off, in the long run, if her desperation hadn’t outweighed her sense of self-preservation. The experiments of Lakewood’s “memory” study are bizarre, unsettling, and often dangerous. All questions are deferred and, curiously, Lena notices that almost all of the subject participants are people of color. Later, Lena manages to get around the firewall she discovers on her phone to learn about studies like the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment and about the laws and codes of ethics that are supposed to keep participants safe. After that, Lena pushes even harder with her questions. What exactly is Lakewood up to?

Lakewood is not a thriller. Lena does not rally a band of quirky allies to take Lakewood down. Rather, Lena and her experiences bring up a series of uncomfortable questions for us to think about. What would we be willing to do for financial security and health care? Why are all the researchers white and almost all the subjects people of color? How far can companies and governments go with human subjects of research studies? Who is enforcing those regulations? Most of all, Lakewood asks, how on earth are we supposed to overturn an unfair, unjust system as entrenched as one that can house something like the Lakewood experiments? Book groups that enjoy satire will have plenty to talk about and readers of science fiction that deals with social justice should have a great time with Lakewood.
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Lakewood, Megan Giddings, debut novel is a very different book. I am still trying to digest it. It takes place in Lakewood, Michigan and is about three poor black women, a grandmother, a mother and their daughter/ granddaughter Lena. They are like three peas in a pod connected at the hip. They don’t know how they will survive without each other. Lena’s grandmother is dying and her mother is very sick, there is no money and  no one able to pay the bills. Lena is supposed to go to college but receives a letter asking her to join the Lakewood Project. It is classified as a memory study and if you are eligible it pays a tremendous amount of money. This seems to be the answer to Lenas prayers and a way to help her mother and grandmother, two people she loves more than anyone in the world. She leaves home, telling her mother and friends she received a job offer. She keeps what she is really doing a secret. This begins an unforgettable, disturbing  journey into the world of government experimentation. While reading I could not imagine that any of this could be true. There were parts that were to horrid to read, yet I wanted to continue. As I continued to read, I questioned myself, asking how far would I go and how much of myself would I destroy to help my loved ones? 

After finishing the book I really did not think these things could possibly have happened. I began googling government experimentation. You must do this when you finish. You will be sickened to learn the amount of human experimentation that was done on babies, children, black people, mentally disabled people and even on our own military. These experiments were done without consent or if with consent  the individuals really were not led to understand the effects of what the drugs could do to them later in life. Human experimentation by the United States government has been going on for centuries, and as of 2007 there has not been a government researcher charged with human experimentation. 

Thank you NetGalley and HarperCollins  Publishers for an ARC of Lakewood. This is a book I might have missed. I am glad I didn’t. The cover is what drew me in and I didn’t take a breath until I was done.
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This book tackles race and class. This is a novel for our times. Very captivating and engaging. This was a really great read. I recommend for fans of The Handmaid's Tale.
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I'm a little shellshocked coming out of Lakewood, in the best possible way. Every time I had to put the book down, I was upset that I couldn't keep going. Every time I picked it up, I was worried about what I was about to read.

Lena is a college student whose family has been saddled with incredible medical debt, so when she receives a letter inviting her to a research study that will knock out that debt, her decision seems simple: drop out of college for a little while, let people run experiments on her, and earn enough money to get consistent treatment for her mother. But as mysterious things happen to her and to her fellow research participants, she begins to question everything.

This book was incredible. It's sinister and surreal, but feels highly possible. It consistently surprised me - almost every time I expected it to go somewhere, it veered a different direction.

This novel touches on poverty and what people are willing to do for money or for their loved ones, moral dilemmas of when to speak up, racism and the integrity of the body, selfhood and independence, and corruptions in science and the government. For a book with so many deep conversations and ideas, it's remarkably compelling - and deeply unsettling.
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