The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson

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Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: A chilling, intense, near-future novel exploring bio-ethics, family interaction, and what it means to be human. Beautifully written, with a wonderfully sympathetic central character, this one will inspire much debate.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: May 2010
Publisher: Walker
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1406323012

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Jenna Fox wakes up after a year in a coma to find herself a stranger - to her surroundings and to her family, but most of all to herself. She doesn't remember what she likes. She doesn't remember who she loves. Her mother's desperate love and constant fussing makes her feel uncomfortable, but her grandmother's clear antipathy makes her feel confused and lonely. And other things don't seem right. Why has the family moved from Boston to California for her recuperation? Why isn't her father around more? Why will nobody talk about the car crash that began everything?

With tantalising memories dancing at the very edges of her newly regained consciousness, Jenna knows she's being kept in the dark. But how? And why?

Woohoo! An existential novel set in a dystopian future. This niche is getting busier in teen fiction and I greatly approve. I love these books and they do speak wonderfully to adolescents, with their biggest-of-big questions - Who am I? Do I matter? What matters most? Can I change things?

In Pearson's future, bio-ethics has become society's biggest issue. Overuse of antibiotics has caused a worldwide resistance that killed millions through several epidemics. Genetic modifications have wiped out thousands of species. Organ transplantation has advanced to such an extent that a points system has been introduced in an effort to preserve core humanity. But she eschews a truly political exploration of these themes in favour of an intimate and personal look at what they may mean, and in this world, families and peer groups are much as they ever were. Jenna herself dominates the book; her thoughts and feelings and her interactions with others are central. And so the feel reminds me more of someone like Sarah Dessen than of many science fiction authors writing in this area. It's a refreshing angle.

Jenna's are questions that need answering. And as her truths are gradually revealed, we realise that more than ever. The themes are important; the focus is self in relation not only to self but to the surrounding world; the writing is wonderfully intimate and lyrical.


My thanks to the nice people at Walker for sending the book.

If they like this kind of existential wondering, they might also enjoy Skinned by Robin Wasserman, in which Lia survives an equally devastating car accident, and looks at a religious reaction to her as a "mech head". Being by Kevin Brooks has a Bladerunner-style take on this theme. I can see the exploration of future longevity in The Declaration by Gemma Malley appealing, too. And of course, there's the devastating Unwind by Neal Shusterman.

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