Mary Pearson is a terrific writer, so I was very excited when I opened a package from Holt and saw an advance of her new book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. If you've read her previous YA novel, A Room on Lorelei Street, expect something very different. Jenna Fox is just as good in terms of quality, but it's got a much different tone.
Because this book won't be out until April 2008, now is a good time to stop reading if you don't want to be even remotely spoiled.
The plot: A long time from now in a state far far away (California), seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox awakens from a year-long coma. What she can't figure out is why she has a phenomenal grasp of everyone's history except her own. She knows the entire text of Walden but doesn't remember that she always called her grandmother Nana, not Lily. Her mother is reluctant to let her go to school or drive, and she never sees her father anymore; he still lives in Boston. When she is allowed to go to school, it's to a local charter where all of her classmates have something wrong with them. When she tries to log onto the Net to find out the details of the car accident that took a year of her life, her access to the information is denied. There's a hidden key in her mother's mattress to a closet, and that closet contains a secret Jenna is desperately trying to crack. Eventually, her mother and father do tell her the truth about her missing year. Or at least, they tell her most of the truth. The rest...she remembers.
Why you'll love it: There's always lots of talk about the theme of identity in YA lit, and here Pearson has taken it to its furthest extreme. Jenna has to figure out who she is with no memory of who she used to be. She's surrounded by people who tell her half-truths and she gets the feeling she's an inconvenience to them. Pearson has built an amazing futuristic world where science may be quite different from what we know now but the basic human condition, that we want to know ourselves and be loved by others, has stayed very much the same. The line on the front cover asks "How far would you go to save someone you loved?" I think the real question here is, "How far would you go to save yourself?" (Of course, the question of how far you'd go to save the one you love is one that drives the book, but I think the other one is far more overreaching.) This is a creepy, creepy book along some of the same the lines of David Lubar's True Talents and Nancy Werlin's Double Helix. It also reminded me of Airhead by Meg Cabot, which I'll review at a later date. And it's already been picked up for a movie.
Mary Pearson's Jenna Fox page.
crossposted at carlie @ bccls