Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Square Fish Books) was first recommended to me by a coworker who is a huge jerk and told me what it was about before I read it. I didn’t realize what a jerk she was until I started reading and realized “this would be a hell of a lot better if I didn’t know what this book was actually about!” So, I am going to try really, really hard to sum up and review without giving away key plot elements and TWISTS so that you are actually SURPRISED and feeling the SUSPENSE if you choose to read it.
Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes from a year-long coma with no memories. None. Nada. Zilch. She doesn’t know anything about her life prior to her accident, which means she also has no idea who she, Jenna Fox, is. As Jenna unravels the mystery of her own identity by watching videos of her extensively recorded life, the nature of her coma and her present life come into clearer focus, leaving her to question not only who she is but what she is.
Pearson’s imagined future is frightening in its plausibility–a world ravaged by disease and disaster because science, and medicine in particular, went about a million steps too far. One of the things that I appreciated most about this book was the way in which the bioethics issues that pervade the story were depicted in varying shades of gray. There was no clear right and wrong, good and bad. The actions construed as evil and despicable for disrupting the natural balance of life could, by another set of characters, be perceived as desperate acts born of love; both depictions had their own merits and shortcomings, so that the ethical debate that occupies much of the narrative felt easily translatable to real life. As I was reading this book, I couldn’t help but think of that part in the best movie in the world, Jurassic Park, when Ian Malcolm says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could that they didn’t stop to think of they should.” Because really, what good is a book if it can’t be related back to J.P.?
The sense of detached melancholy that Jenna feels as she learns her own personal history by watching videos of herself brought up questions of what exactly construes identity–are we simply vessels animated by our experiences, or is there an intrinsic soul that gives us our own qualities separate from those granted by experience? Again, Pearson’s writing dances around the topic, giving no clear answers one way or the other.
Some of the science in it was a bit confusing, but I’m not sure if that’s because I just didn’t get it or if Pearson herself was unsure of the science that would support her world. There was also a weird quasi-love triangle that I could have done without, but it wasn’t really a typical love triangle, more like a teen hormones plot with a weird sociopath trying to get attention and cause mischief thrown in there. Said sociopath was useful in that he furthered the exploration of the soul that was so integral to Jenna understanding the nature of her existence, so I can deal.
Overall, this was a simple thought-provoking story. Like any good dystopia, the terrors of this future point a finger directly back to our present. The writing is solid and the characters are well-developed and believable. I didn’t love this book as much as my coworker did, but I did like it a lot and would absolute recommend it to those who enjoy sci-fi lite.
For music: Azure Ray’s “I Will Do These Things.” Aside from the obvious first line (“I will take your childhood dreams and turn them into a beautiful film”) being a perfect match for the theme of learning who you are through viewing yourself through someone else’s lens, this song is so haunting and melancholy, hinting at mysteries and secrets kept from loved ones. Also, I like the idea of the heartbeat that carries the rhythm of the song foiling SURPRISE YOU WILL HAVE TO READ THE BOOK TO KNOW WHAT IT FOILS. Uh oh!
Where I got this book: The library