Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Square Fish, 2010
265 pages

I bought this Young Adult novel for my fourteen-year-old niece, and gave it to her a few weeks ago when I was visiting the family. She immediately began reading it, and I could tell she was hooked because she tuned out of the conversations taking place around her. (Yeah, I know teens don't necessarily need a good book for that.) When it was time for lunch, she didn't want to put the book down. When she completed it (just a few hours later) she dramatically closed the book and proclaimed for all to hear: "This is the BEST book I've ever read! You HAVE to read this!"

So I did.

Imagine a world in the not-too-distant future, not long after an antibiotic-resistant virus has wiped out a quarter of the world's population. There's a sort of battle going on between the scientists and the naturalists. The latter believe strongly that the virus would have never happened if not for all the scientific meddling in our food supply (e.g., genetically modified foods). In the meantime, a new product called BioGel has been developed that enables quick growth of new organs, among other things, making it possible to save lives, but also generating new questions such as: What percentage of a person makes them human?

Now imagine that you're a seventeen-year old girl who's just waking up after being in a coma for 1.5 years. You have no memory of anything, but guided by your parents and grandmother and digital recordings of your life, you start to put the pieces together. The more you learn, the more questions you have: What put you in the coma? Why did your family move from Boston to California while you were "out"? Why don't you - or your family - have any friends? How is it that you're able to recite entire literary works from memory? (Hmmm.) This is what happened to Jenna Fox, who slowly remembers her past and the accident that led up to this situation.

Of course, Jenna's Dad is the founder of the company that makes BioGel, and when you realize that, the plot thickens and you start thinking of various Kyle XY (former TV show) scenarios. The story is told from Jenna's perspective and therefore allows you to get totally in her head. It's confusing enough to be seventeen (from my memory, at least!), but the magnitude of Jenna's situation will blow your mind.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is  a sort of dystopian Sci-Fi tale, but it's also a treatise on ethics. I really want to have a conversation with my niece now to learn what her takeaways were (if she was able to read between the lines on the ethical issues.) My niece was totally right that this book rocks. Although it was written primarily for a teen audience, I think adults can take plenty away from it, too.

Check out the official "book trailer" here. Then go get the book. My niece was so right on this one. :-)