Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Adoration Of Jenna Fox

Jenna Fox can't lace her fingers together.

Her fingers look perfectly fine. They just don't go together well. A classmate tells her she has an odd walk. But she used to do ballet. At least that's what she's been told by her parents.

She can't remember it though.

Seventeen year old Jenna Fox wakes up in California, a stranger in her body. She had an accident that put her in a coma, and now she can't remember most of her previous life.

She was an only child, so her doting parents have numerous videos of her life. She's encouraged to watch them as she tries to regain what she's lost.

Jenna feels like she's not being told everything. Her grandmother who lives with them is distant and cold, unlike the loving Grandma in the videos. And when she visits her neighbor and he offers her a chance to feed the birds, they won't eat from her handful of birdseed. They only choose the neighbor.

So just who is Jenna Fox?
We all received books for Christmas in my family. The Adoration Of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson was my request. It may seem weird for a middle aged guy to want a young adult novel, but this book intrigued me with its premise of mystery in the midst of bioethics. Oh, and the cover rocks.

 It didn't disappoint.

The book is written in present tense from Jenna's point of view, which is a perfect way to tell her story - as she discovers her new life and old one, we experience it with her.

The structure is a little disjointed early on. Chapters seem random and are set apart in varying ways, not with the typical stop, blank page, and clear title and beginning into the next part. It made getting into the book a little challenging. However, it makes sense when considering Jenna's fragmented memory. Once I got into it, I wanted to discover what Jenna's secret was and how it was going to affect her. (I knew more about the plot going into it than I am giving here - I don't want it spoiled for new readers).

The book is set in a near future where there are some amazing medical advances, but with any progress comes questions and unintended consequences. Adoration does a very good job of introducing issues to think about in the framework of the story. I don't know how much it would make a teen think of bioethical issues, but as a medical professional I thought it was well done and should provoke thought. One of my favorite philosophers is Ian Malcolm from Jurrasic Park when he says, "Just because we can do something doesn't mean we should."

Adoration has humorous moments, stakes that become higher than just Jenna finding herself, and a lot of suspense. The ending may be too tidy, but it is satisfying, and it looks like Pearson managed to work a sequel into it still, The Fox Inheritance, which I haven't read yet.

I recommend this book for teens, those interested in bioethics or medical fiction, and those who like near future "what ifs". It is a good read that can provoke thinking - a crazy thing, right?

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