Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
272 pages
Published April 2008 by Henry Holt & Co.
Source: my daughter checked it out from the school library

**review contains possible spoilers**

Jenna, 17, has just awoken from the coma that she has been in for more than a year following a terrible accident. She has no memory of the mother and grandmother that she is living with or the father who made his fortune in biotechnology and who spends most of his time across the country. Fortunately, Jenna was a treasured child and much of her life has been preserved on video discs; there's a disc for every year of her life. But Jenna has no recollection of any of the events on the discs and has no connection to the girl in videos with the same name.

Gradually memories begin to return. Most of them are very detailed memories of very small parts of her life. But there are also memories of friends that are no longer in her life. And the memories begin to create more questions than they do answers. For one thing, why can she remember whole passages from Thoreau but not remember what her old room looked like? And why can she remember being in her mother's womb? Jenna's also trying to figure out why her grandmother does seem to like her (something she's sure wasn't the case before the accident), why her parents won't allow her to return to school and why her room and clothes seem so impersonal. The answers will come from everyone and everything around her.

Set in the not too distant future, California has experienced the "big one" and much of that state has fallen into the ocean, leaving what's left badly damaged. Planting of non-native species of plants has resulted in the extinction of many native species of trees, shrubs and flowers. Overuse of antibiotics as resulted in super viruses that cannot be contained by any medication. A world-wide virus has killed millions of people. Because of this, an ethics board has been set up that is in charge of governing medical technology and to set up a point system for all lifesaving technology. The reader is asked again and again to question the choices that mankind has made.

This is the first true YA novel that I have read since I was regularly reading YA novels in my youth. It did take me a while to adjust to that level of storytelling. But this is definitely not a book that talks down to young people or that would strictly appeal to young people. It deals with the very grownup issues of ethics and what constitutes a "soul." It asks the question, how far would you go to save someone you love?

This book does contain some plotting issues that bothered me. For one thing, why does Jenna enroll in school under her own name if her family is so well known and she's supposed to be in hiding? Also, there's a neighborhood boy who is also a schoolmate of Jenna's that poses a threat which is never resolved. But the pacing and writing are so well done, that I was able to overlook these things. Midway through the book, Pearson reveals the big truth about Jenna. What, I thought, is she doing? Why would I want to keep reading now that I know this? The answer is because Pearson is not done with the reader yet. Knowing the "what" does not reveal the"why" and only serves to make Jenna's situation appear all the more perilous.

I highly recommend this book for anyone high-school aged or older.


  1. I just finished this book too. It was actually only on page 31 that we find out the big truth! I almost put it down at that point but I kept going and I believe you are right: the what was only the beginning of the story.

    I liked it but I definitely saw it as a YA book.

  2. This sounds very interesting! I think I will have to check my local Half Price Books! :-) Is it a newer book or has it been out a little while?

  3. On page 31 we do get a big clue when Pearson tells us what Jenna's father has developed which might be enough for some people to deduce the truth. But it is not until page 115 that Pearson actually revels the truth of what Jenna's father has done.

  4. It sounds pretty heavy but intriguing. You write a fascinating review.

  5. I've been reading rave reviews of this book and have it on my wish list.

  6. I've been wanting to read this one for awhile now! Good to know you enjoyed it!

    I thought I better get my books lined up for easier viewing on my sidebar...the easiest way I knew to do that was to create two posts one for books by author and one for books by title and then I added links to all my reviews for each book and put them over on my took a couple of hours but it was worth it!

  7. I have been very interested in this one for awhile. Will have to get myself a copy. :)

  8. Thanks for the warning about spoilers! I have been meaning to read this one, and just never seem to remember it when I go to the library. It sounds pretty fantastic, and I am a sucker for dystopian these days...

    I shall have to come back and convo about it when I find out what I think about it.... *grin*