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Book Review: The One by John Marrs

Book Review: The One by John Marrs

There are three simple steps to the Match Your DNA test. One – sign up to the website and enter your details, two – provide a mouth swab (free of charge), and three – wait to be contacted with the details of your perfect DNA match. On the surface finding that one person you’re genetically made for couldn’t be easier. But would you take the test?

John Marrs asks that outwardly innocent question in his gripping psychological thriller, The One, a book filled with so many unexpected twists and turns that it demands to be read in one sitting. From the very beginning, where five people gear up to meet their perfect genetic matches, there’s a disquieting sense that the consequences of their choice to partake will be far graver than the test implies, a feeling that only grows as the story becomes more ominous.

A decade after scientists discovered that everyone shares a gene with one other person in the world, Match Your DNA has surpassed all other standard dating apps and websites. Desperate to find true love, millions have taken the test and many have found their other half. It hasn’t worked for everyone, with numerous lawsuits filed by people whose marriages have been ruined, but it’s a tempting enough option for our five diverse protagonists, who all have different reasons for taking the test.

Divorcee Mandy is lonely and longs for a family, whilst spa employee Jade is bored of her dreary life and has been chatting long-distance to her match in Australia for some time. Then there’s Nick, who doesn’t actually want to take the test but is forced into it by his fiancé, and workaholic Ellie, who thinks it’s about time she opened her heart up to someone. Finally there’s Christopher, a brutal serial killer who doesn’t believe he’s capable of love, but is intrigued to test the theory with his seemingly perfect match, if he can resist murdering her.

As the characters meet their respective DNA counterparts, they all very quickly discover that ‘the one’ they’re supposed to be with, actually isn’t at all what they expected. From an inherently straight man being matched with another straight man, to another character being matched with someone who has a terminal illness, The One explores humanity’s desire to find that one perfect person and how susceptible people are to having thoughts planted in their minds when they’re so desperate for a particular outcome.

Marrs has written a thrilling and disturbing story with a fascinating and pertinent concept at its heart. When I started reading the book, I was sure I’d take the test if presented with the opportunity in real life. How harmful could something so innocent be? Yet by the end, I was glad such a thing doesn’t exist. As the test’s creator explains when the story takes a darker turn, she might have invented the means to bring people together and break them apart, but people’s actions are solely their own and they have to take responsibility for them.

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With short and succinct chapters, that always leave you wanting to just-read-one-more-page, The One is a unique, unpredictable and fast-paced novel that’s in equal parts unsettling and exciting. In an age where more and more people are looking for romance online, it explores the dangers of putting all your trust in an app or a website, or in this case, a test. If you’re fed-up with the samey psychological thrillers that are churned out each month, The One will restore your faith in the genre.


The One by John Marrs is out in eBook now and is published by Ebury in paperback on 4 May 2017

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