Adoration of Jenna Fox: Is this our future?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson; published by Henry Holt and Co., New York, 2008; 265 pages.

Viruses out of control. Biotechnology replacing God. Genetically modified plants overtaking landscapes. This is the world that Jenna Fox, 17-year-old amnesiac, awakens to. Memories wash back in frustrating and uncontrolled flashes, some even reaching back to the Sacrament of Baptism when she was an infant. But Lily, her grandmother, and her parents, Claire and Matthew, don’t realize the experiences their adored Jenna Angeline Fox suffered through during her nightmarish coma. Now awake, she is also awakening to her past (the voices of her friends Kara and Locke haunt her) and her future: Mr. Bender, her first friend in her new life, is hiding from his past and is thus a marker in the fork in the road Jenna faces; Dane is human, but soulless; Allys is crippled by uncontrolled viruses yet fights for the end of scientific interventions; and Ethan represents a future she may not be able to have. For after all, Jenna is a genetic mutant herself, only 10% of her pre-accident body exists. What kind of future can a Bio Gel filled, nanobot controlled teenager have?

I may seem like a broken record here, but I enjoyed this book. What teen hasn’t felt alien in his or her body? What teen isn’t struggling for identity? And who among us isn’t concerned about the out-of-control spiral science seems to be reeling on? In addition to crafting a coming of age story that is as old as time itself (but leads us to the future that is just out of our reach), Pearson’s layout of the story is ingenious.  Although the book is written from Jenna’s perspective, we get the most honest glimpses into her thoughts. those that fall between the black-and-white, on gray pages with insightful poetry.  These gray pages seem to mark sections of the book, with chapter titles that seem to be attempts by Jenna to define words that she lost during her reconstruction.  I hesitate to call this science fiction because it is so readable, even for the most literal readers.  However, like all good science fiction, it is through the scientifically impossible scenarios that we are given glimpses into the defects of human nature. 

My only gripe with the book is that the last chapter, which projects us into Jenna’s future, is wrapped up too neatly and very abruptly.  Another issue, that is probably more me than the book, is that the theme of being “the perfect child” was too subtle.  As the oldest, I could relate to Jenna’s sense that she had to be perfect at everything; it was as an adult that I realized that perfectionism was my issue, not my parents’.  I guess I wish that storyline had been emphasized more than the Allys-science-out-of-control line.

4P     5Q     Grade Level: 8-12

jennafoxCover Art: The pons, or butterfly, is the 10% of Jenna’s brain that her dad was able to save.  Jenna also struggles with her fingers not interlocking comfortably (“monster hands” I believe she calls them).  With her hand and a blue butterfly on the cover, the story is summarized; however, it doesn’t make sense before the book is read.  However, the slightly out of focus image with a title that include “adoration” in it, should get teens interested.  The white, interesting, font on the black spine is easy to locate on the shelves.  I think word-of-mouth is going to have to sell this one, particularly to boys.

From Reading List: The Way It Could Be (Science Fiction or Fantasy)

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