Friday, June 27, 2014

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (YA Lit Review)

Dealing with morning sickness has had one perk--I've had more time to read than I've had in years. So I've been scrolling through my library's catalog of e-books and finding (not surprisingly) that the YA books are a lot more appealing to me than the adult selections. Vampires, werewolves and fairy romances aside, of course. There are TONS of sci-fi, magical realism, and post-apocalyptic reads of all stripes and styles available to YA readers.

My most recent and probably most enjoyable read was the Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson. The cover had caught my eye in the past but I'd never bothered to read the synopsis of it. Couple days ago I checked it out for my Kindle on a whim (God bless Thomas Jefferson for popularizing public libraries and Amazon for my e-reader! Trips outside my house are pretty limited these days.)

With no expectations for the novel (except that it looked vaguely sci-fi of a bio-engineering slant) I started in. Jenna's voice and the immediate tension and mystery hooked me from the start. She's seventeen, has just woken up from a coma after a terrible accident that has erased most of her memory, and seems to be experiencing dissociative personality disorder symptoms. Her parents are taking the best possible care of her, however, and are obsessively devoted to her recovery. Her live-in grandmother, on the other hand, treats her like a stranger, but Jenna senses it wasn't always like this. She then starts remembering things she shouldn't and hearing voices in her head that she is certain belong to someone else. Things begin to take on a sinister nature in her mind and she's convinced her parents (and grandmother) are keeping things from her.

The story takes place in the not-to-distant future, about 10 years after a catastrophic earthquake and devastating epidemic (resulting from the over-use of antibiotics). The Adoration of Jenna Fox is less action/adventure and more a suspenseful mystery, exploring both bio-ethics and the concept of personhood. The author doesn't resolve all the questions she raises, but does a fair hand at presenting the quandaries and "benefits" of a variety of viewpoints. She even touches on the tangled relationship between faith and science without dishonoring either. She also tackles the important question of parental authority as it relates to many stages of childhood (what are the boundaries in a parent-child relationship) throughout the story--a question certainly more relevant to Jenna as she is nearly an adult herself.

Somewhat shorter than the average YA read, I enjoyed being about to finish The Adoration of Jenna Fox in one day. It moved at a nice pace, had plenty of surprises and ended in a rather unexpected, slightly disturbing, yet ultimately satisfying way. From a content advisory perspective, there was no sex (two or three very tame kisses), no violence to speak of, and only a couple instances of minor crude language. If it were a movie it'd probably get a PG rating.

I would recommend it to readers (14 and up) who enjoy mild sci-fi and don't mind their brains circling around various ethical questions for a few hours afterward.

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