This book will make you go down a rabbit hole on unauthorized medical procedures and experiments on the Black community. Though Lakewood by Megan Giddings is a work of fiction, so many parts ring true to events that happened in the past and very well could still be happening to this day. It wasn't that long ago that Black men were being used as test in the Tuskegee Experiment or Henriette Lacks' cells were unethically and illegally taken from her, replicated, and used for medical testing and vaccination trials. Lakewood is a debut dystopic horror novel that hones in on the elements of race and class within medical experimentation.
Lena Johnson is a 21 year old Black college student, who agrees to move to the small, rural town of Lakewood, Michigan to participate in a medical study that has great pay and full medical benefits for her and her family. Lena's primary reason for dropping out of college to participate in this medical study is her mother's debilitating health condition. The promise of health benefits and decent pay that can ease some of the financial burden is too much to pass up. Lena starts to notice things are not as they seem in the town of Lakewood and the drugs and experiments she is forced to participate in become dangerous, even deadly.
Lakewood has been compared to books like The Handmaid's Tale, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks and the movie, "Get Out." I do not agree with the Handmaid's Tale comparison as I feel this dystopia novel stands on it's own (and too many dystopia novels are compared to The Handmaid's Tale when that shouldn't be the base line standard for the genre) but I do agree with the other comparisons. Lakewood has a theme of a community of white people with medical experimentations that happen on people of color.
This book is WEIRD, but I could not put it down. For some reason, I am in the mood for dystopia books amid this crazy pandemic. Lakewood scratched that itch for me and left me glued to my seat. The elements of race and class that emerge from Lena's story are unbelievable, yet stories of unauthorized medical experimentation have been happening as recent as the 1970s.
This is one of those works of fiction that could almost be non-fiction, which makes it disturbing. This book will haunt you in all the right ways. Give it a go and let me know what you think!