Review of “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” by Mary E. Pearson

Jenna Fox is a seventeen year old who has been in a coma for eighteen months after a terrible car accident. Now she has awakened, but her memory has not:

“I don’t remember my mother, my father, or Lily. I don’t remember that I once lived in Boston. I don’t remember the accident. I don’t remember Jenna Fox.”

By page 31 we get a huge hint to the mysteries posed thus far by Jenna’s condition. At that point, I almost put the book down, but decided there must be a reason why the author gives it away so quickly; she must have more to say. And in fact, she does.

Caution: The next two paragraphs are sort of spoilery.

Ten percent of Jenna’s brain was salvaged from the accident and a bit of her skin and DNA, so she was reconstituted with her father’s biotech innovation “Bio Gel.” Jenna is furious when she finds out. Is she even human? Is the “brain” the same as the “mind”? Does she have a soul? Will she now be perfect or can she just be Jenna – that is, the new Jenna? What will the repercussions be when she falls in love with a “human” male who will age, can procreate, and will die?

Moreover, there are societal issues to be considered as well: How far should a parent go to save a child? Is it ethical to pour so many resources into one life? Who decides then who shall live and who shall die?

Discussion: If you’ve read Richard Powers book Galatea 2.2, you know that there are much more sophisticated ways to treat the issues raised in this related story for young adults. But I think giving voice to these concerns by a teenage girl is a good idea. First, it brings these issues to the attention of young readers, which may get them interested in the very real contemporary debate on allocation of resources for health care. Second, there is also a very charming coming of age aspect to the story when Jenna meets a boy she likes, which adds another dimension of interest for readers otherwise adverse to reading about science.

Evaluation: I really liked the way the author portrayed Jenna; I thought her voice had a wonderful authenticity in spite of Jenna’s enhanced mental capabilities. The way she related to her parents, with that typical teen combination of love and rebelliousness, seemed right on. I also liked the way Jenna loved her friends, both male and female. I can’t rave about the book for me as an adult; it struck me as very much a YA book (which is not, I should add, a negative characterization).

The epilogue, however, showed promise as an additional book! (And indeed, there are continuations of this story.) It has echoes of Robert Heinlein’s Time Enough For Love, which, if you haven’t read it, is a scifi classic about a long-lived male who keeps outliving the women he loves. Heinlein was a bit of a male chauvinist however; it would be wonderful to see what the author does with the story of Jenna Fox next to reflect a female perspective on disparate lifespans.

Rating: 3/5

Published by Henry Holt and Co., 2008

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17 Responses to Review of “The Adoration of Jenna Fox” by Mary E. Pearson

  1. Sandy says:

    I loved this book. It was the perfect example of everything a YA novel can be. While it is pretty easy to figure out what was going on early in the book, it still is entertaining to watch it all unfold. I was one of the people who gave this 5 stars. Maybe that is because I don’t read much YA and haven’t had the exposure to other great works in this genre, but I was blown away!

  2. Trisha says:

    I’m one of those people, who like you, did not want to marry this book after reading it. I thought it was interesting, but I agree that there are much more sophisticated books out there about this topic.

  3. stacybuckeye says:

    Still need to read this one.

  4. Lisa says:

    I’m on the same page as you about this one. I didn’t “get” how much of Jenna was not real when I read pg 31 so I didn’t really get the feeling that the book was over for me until midway through but I did feel like the meat of the story did occur after that. I’m with you that this is a great jumping off place for young people to explore these issues.

  5. Aarti says:

    I’m a bit wishy-washy on this one and with your 3 rating, I am still quite wishy-washy. Hmmm… library, perhaps, if I manage to get through the group of books currently on my shelves! only if I’m a good girl 🙂

  6. Margot says:

    Haven’t read it but I like the idea the subject matter was written for young adults. I hope it raises lots of discussions among them.

  7. softdrink says:

    I just had to read the spoilery part of your review. And whoa. I never would’ve guessed that was what this book was about. It sounds like it would make for an interesting discussion.

  8. A couple of weeks ago I downloaded this book on kindle based on some glowing reviews…..oh dear. I’ll let you know what I think when I get done….

  9. Jenners says:

    I didn’t read this yet but it is on my list … I read some of those glowing reviews too.

  10. nymeth says:

    I haven’t read this one yet, so I had to skip the spoilery bits 😛 It’s on The List, though.

  11. I had to skip your spoilery…as I want to read this one. It’s on my wishlist now. Thanks.

  12. susan says:

    Once again you give me a reason to read a popular YA book I initially passed over. I’d like to read the adult books you mention as well.

    You might be interested in Neal Shusterman’s Unwind. It’s another YA book that deals with when does life begin and end and who decides who lives.

  13. Staci says:

    I’m glad that you enjoyed this one…I loved it!! I

  14. Alyce says:

    I just skimmed your review since I didn’t want to find out too much about this book before I read it (although I don’t know when that will happen). It’s already on my wish list though. 🙂

  15. I really loved this novel! I thought it was well done and raised wonderful issues for teens and parents alike.

  16. Jenners says:

    OK … you did a great job and (a nice job) in writing this review. You did sum up just how I felt .. but without being as negative as I was. I think I might need to read the “adult” version of this story that you mentioned. When I write my review, I’m going to cite yours.

  17. HG says:

    This book was interesting, but definitly not the best thing i’ve read. People are ranting and raving about that “this is the best book out there!!” errr, WRONG. The descriptions are great, you can relate to the character, but the story is just blahh. Its written differently, which you have to adapt too and i had to force myself to finish it. Basically to me, it seemed like a pointless story. No suspense or anything. At least not through my eyes.

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