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The Adoration of Jenna Fox: Mary E. Pearson

Book: The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Author: Mary E. Pearson (blog)
Pages: 272
Age Range: 12 and up

The Adoration of Jenna FoxBackground: I knew from my first glimpse at a review that The Adoration of Jenna Fox was a book that I had to read. I carefully gleaned as little as possible from the reviews, because I knew that this was a book that I didn't want spoiled. (And not to worry, I promise not to spoil it, either). I added it to my wish list after reading a review at The Reading Zone. When I finally procured my copy, I had to start reading it that night. But I put it down quickly, because I knew that if I went past the first chapter or two, I would be up reading until I had finished it. Today, I eyed it, sitting there on the couch all day, promising myself that if I finished my other work, I could have it as a treat. I was motivated to finish up by 4:30, and then I read it in one sitting.

Review: Jenna Fox wakes up one day from a year-long coma. She can't remember anything about her previous life, and she doesn't feel any connection to her parents or her grandmother. She's not even sure that she really is Jenna Fox, and her grandmother's mysterious hostility seems to support this. She starts to assemble clues, all of which point to something very wrong. To something not normal. Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox is about Jenna's quest to figure out who she is. It is about identity. It is about the lengths that parents will go to to protect a child.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is hugely suspenseful. I couldn't stop reading - I was dying to know what Jenna's secret was, and, once I knew, how she would adjust to it. At the same time, it's also a thought-provoking book, one that makes the reader stop and ponder deep issues. Set in a future society that looks, in some ways, like the past, the Adoration of Jenna Fox explores biological and ethical issues, and provides a cautionary perspective. It never feels like an issue book, though, because it's really all about Jenna. The reader gets to watch Jenna's personality unfold, as she recovers from her coma and learns to interact with the people around her.

Mary Pearson's writing is both lyrical and compelling. Poems mark the divisions between chapters, providing tangential peeks at insights, before Jenna is prepared to face them head on. Every word counts.

Here's the opening paragraphs of the book:

"I used to be someone.
Someone named Jenna Fox.
That's what they tell me. But I am more than a name. More than they tell me. More than the facts and statistics they fill me with. More than the video clips they make me watch.
More. But I'm not sure what."

Here are a couple of other passages, to give you an idea of the spare beauty of Pearson's prose (no spoilers, I promise):

"There's something about her eyes. Eyes don't breathe. I know that much. But hers look breathless." (Page 14)

"I lie back on my bed and look at the ceiling. A Cotswold ceiling is fairly uneventful. It matches me." (Page 99)

There are also extensive quotations from Thoreau's Walden, referenced by characters who know the words so well that they can use them to have real-world discussions. This adds to the old-fashioned feel of this book set some mysterious time into the future.

I was reading this book, and thinking to myself "how on earth was Mary Pearson able to come up with this book?" It is remarkable. It is not to be missed, by anyone from fans of speculative fiction to fans of novels in verse (though only a small part is in verse) to fans of adult "literary fiction". Don't read any more reviews - don't risk spoiling it - just go and get it. But make sure you have a clear chunk of time so that you can read it in one day. Because you're going to want to. Trust me.

Publisher: Henry Holt Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: April 29, 2008
Source of Book: Purchased it
Other Blog Reviews: The Reading Zone, Interactive Reader, A Hundred Visions and Revisions, Reading Rants, Becky's Book Reviews, Over My Head, the YA YA YAs, OMS Blog, Sarah Miller. See also my review of Mary's previous book, A Room on Lorelei Street
Author Interviews: Teen Book Review, Cynsations, Tea Cozy

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.