Alison Allen-Gray


  • This summary of Unique includes a complete plot overview – spoilers included!
  • We’re considering expanding this synopsis into a full-length study guide to deepen your comprehension of the book and why it's important.
  • Want to see an expanded study guide sooner? Click the Upvote button below.

Unique Summary

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides that feature  detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, quotes, and essay topics. This one-page guide includes a plot summary and brief analysis of Unique by Alison Allen-Gray.

Alison Allen-Gray’s debut novel, Unique (2004), a young adult science fiction, centers on a young boy who, upon discovering he is the product of a cloning experiment, must find a way to live with this truth before it destroys his family forever. Generally well received by teenage readers, it was shortlisted for the 2004 Booktrust Teenage Prize. Before writing full-time, Allen-Gray acted for ten years in theatres across England. Since 1999, she has worked as a magazine editor and has written picture books for early readers.

The protagonist, fifteen-year-old Dominic, loves everything his father despises—art and individuality; he feels like a disappointment. His rich CEO father tells him that he doesn’t try hard enough at school because his grades are too low, convincing Dominic that he won’t amount to anything. Dominic’s mother is an alcoholic who used to love singing until his father knocked it out of her. She stopped singing as soon as Dominic was born; something else Dominic feels bad about.

The only positive family relationship Dominic has is with his grandfather, Pops. Pops indulges Dominic’s love of drawing and painting, encouraging him to be who he wants to be. However, Pops is getting older. He can’t remember things and he’s often confused. This is distressing for Dominic who doesn’t know how he’ll cope when his grandfather stops recognizing him.

One day, Dominic stumbles upon a photo album at Pops’s house. He sees photos of a boy who looks identical to him as a baby. The difference is that his parents look happy and fulfilled, and the baby looks happy, too. Looking through the rest of the album, wondering why his parents changed, Dominic stumbles across photos that don’t make any sense. The boy is a college student, and he looks exactly like Dominic expects to look at the same age.
Dominic confronts his family about the pictures because he doesn’t understand them. He discovers that the boy is his deceased older brother, Nick. Nick had studied at Cambridge and had a bright scientific future ahead of him. Dominic is horrified that his parents kept this information from him. He sneaks off to Cambridge to find out more about his prodigal brother because he doesn’t trust his parents now.

What Dominic finds out, however, changes him forever. Dominic is Nick’s clone. After Nick died, Dominic’s father made him anew, expecting that this boy would grow up to be the exact same as his dead son. Since Dominic is nothing like his brother, his father thinks he is nothing more than a failed experiment.

This revelation makes Dominic question everything he knows about himself, from his origins to his right to exist in the first place. He meets a world-famous scientist, Professor Holt, who is willing to talk to him about what happened. He soon discovers even worse news—he only exists to preserve the memory of Nick. He has no individual identity. Dominic is disgusted; it feels like his worst fears are coming true.

Professor Holt explains that no one can ever know the truth because cloning is illegal and highly dangerous. The government will kill the professor if anyone knows what she did. Dominic won’t tell anyone, but he can’t stay in Cambridge, either. He finds old friends of his brother’s and plans to go to Scotland with them. He wants to run away from his family forever because he knows he means nothing to them.

However, before Dominic can flee, his father shows up. He tries to make Dominic travel with him to Australia, but Dominic escapes and makes for Scotland. There he meets up with Nick’s friends, Becky and Giles, who let him live with them. Things settle down and he feels normal again for the first time since the revelation until he receives a frantic phone call from Professor Holt.

The professor tells him that he is in grave danger and must meet her immediately. She tells him of a secret location, but he is cornered by an evil journalist looking for a story. The journalist has been following the story of Nick’s disappearance and wants the truth. Dominic runs away, but the journalist is too fast for him.

When the journalist catches Dominic again, she threatens to tell the world the truth. At this moment, Professor Holt shows up and grabs the woman’s phone to destroy it. The commotion continues onto a perilous mountain edge in the Scottish hillside. Dominic tries to mediate between them, but Professor Holt makes him stay back. Because he is forced to retreat, he is unable to save Professor Holt when she and the journalist tumble over the edge.

Dominic checks on Professor Holt, but she is dead. So is the journalist. Dominic believes he is an abomination, responsible for so much death and destruction. He plans to tell the police the truth, letting them do what they want with him. He hopes that no one else is ever cloned, because he is an anomaly that should never be repeated. He is unique.