Monday, August 11, 2008

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson + Book QnA

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn't remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers?

This fascinating novel represents a stunning new direction for acclaimed author Mary Pearson. Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity. Mary Pearson's vividly drawn characters and masterful writing soar to a new level of sophistication.

Grade: A

Thank you to SH for this book!

Memorable Quotes/Lines:
Are the details of our lives who we are, or is it owning those details that makes the difference?

Isn't that what all of life is anyway?
Shards. Bits. Moments.
Am I less because I have fewer, or do the few I have mean more?
Am I just as fell as anyone else? Enough?
Allys saying "I like you."
Gabriel snorting out bread, freeing me to laugh.
And Ethan reminding me how much I do know.
I hold them like they are life itself.
They nearly are.

...and so many more.


I have a fetish for books with butterfly covers. Seriously. What first attracted me to The Adoration of Jenna Fox was that winged bug you see prominent on the cover. Isn’t it pretty?

And I’ll tell you what, the premise was nothing short of the cover’s potential, either.

Jenna wakes up from a year-long coma. Well, at least that’s how long her parents tell her it’s been. See, she doesn’t remember anything. Which doesn’t go to say she’s not curious—she’s very much curious. Curious as to why her grandmother acts weirdly around her. Curious about the fact she can’t eat anything. Curious about her parents’ strange behavior. But more than anything, she’s curious about the person she used to be—did she have any friends? What was she like?

If you didn’t know it yet, this novel is set in the future. A future that, if the book jacket is to be trusted, "may be closer than we think".

Let’s talk about this future. Science has reached the point where the power it gave the tyrants in control of it (that is, us humans) an advantage to create chaos. The issue of ethics is often the subject of wild debate, even more heated than nowadays. The world is incredibly dreary—to the brink with bureaucratic institutions created to regulate (and essentially control) all scientific advances and procedures.

Sound too technical? It really isn’t. Pushing all the ethical and moral dilemmas aside, an equally important theme of exploration present here is that of humanity. What makes a living being a person and all that. It’s quite fascinating because Ms Pearson takes an entirely unorthodox approach to the discovery of this value. Her writing is powerful in this sense also, as it is muted and subtle.

Which is something I wanted to talk about, actually: the writing. I’m accustomed to skipping over a lot of info-dump paragraphs while reading. I do this by default and usually understand the text pretty well anyway. I guess Mary Pearson wasn’t having any of that though, because first time I tried doing that, I ended up having to go back several paragraphs to see what I missed. Second time, backtracked several pages.

It’s call word-economy. Tight writing. Something I really, really appreciate.

Personally, it’s pertinent for everyone—teens, adults—to read this novel. The characters were identifiable, the situations familiar in the respect they made sense as a destination to the path we’re on, and the plot was clever. This novel’s a real gem.

Book QnA (with Mary!)

*possible spoilers ahead*

Did The Adoration of Jenna Fox go through many changes from the first draft to the final draft? How long were you at work on it -- from its very genesis in your mind -- to publication? (Thanks to The Ravenous Reader for this question.)

The first seeds of this story were planted in Spring of 2000. In the fall of 2003 I began doing a lot of research for the story but I didn’t actually begin writing it until March of 2004. I finished the first draft in June of ‘06, so it took me a little over two years just to get to that point. And then the revisions began, which ended up totaling about five different drafts. So, from genesis to publication was eight years–and a very long process!

Jenna's grandmother has a hard time accepting accepting Jenna. This is largely because she's not sure what to make of Jenna. What do you think makes a person human?

That is a tough question and even after exploring it in this story I am not sure I have the answer. I think it has to do with something outside of yourself though, an awareness and caring, perhaps even to your own detriment, for someone else. An element of sacrifice. But I am already realizing that doesn’t quite describe it either. I suppose the answer is personal and fluid for all of us.

Did Mr. Thoreau’s revelation at the end have any sort of significance in relation to Jenna?

I think several of Mr. Thoreau’s thoughts from Walden spoke to Jenna’s situation. And the last line quoted, “Or in silence passed by as true today may turn out to be a falsehood tomorrow,” I think especially echoed Jenna and her grandmother’s thoughts about how the world changes. What I liked about using Walden is that even though it was written a couple of hundred years earlier, many of the ideas were still relevant to Jenna’s life. Some ideas are universal and timeless like, “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” That’s about as true and timeless as it gets.

Are you inspired from events that have happened in your life when you write your stories?

Absolutely. "Life" is what books are all about and every event that happens and every person I meet affects how I feel about things, and perhaps more importantly as a writer, how I wonder about things. Wondering and exploring is what writers do. Without things happening in our lives we would have nothing to question or wonder about. So, specific events may not show up in my stories, but they certainly get the wheels turning.

Are you working on anything right now?

I am finishing final revisions on my next book which should be out in Fall '09. The title is still being discussed, though I am fairly certain my editor and I have settled on one that we both love. It's a larger than life type of story about four teens who take off on an unauthorized road trip. It is quite different from my previous books, and after the intensity of my last two, this one has a fun and outrageous quality to it.

What do you hope the reader will remember or take away after they have read one of your books?

There’s a hundred different answers to that depending on the book and the reader but a few thoughts . . . I hope that perhaps they will remember seeing themselves and feeling less alone, or remember stretching to ponder new ideas or viewpoints, or remember walking in someone else’s shoes and gaining a new perspective, or perhaps simply remembering a fond few hours where they were able to escape into a different world where they shared a journey with me.


Liv said...

I loved this book. I think you picked some really great questions too. She definitely gave some thoughtful and interesting answers. Nice job!

Amee said...

Great review. Can't say I'll ever read it as I'm not really into the heavy handed ethical/moral type books. Maybe someday though. :D

Anonymous said...

Ambeen- Normally, I'm not either (I prefer fluff, lol), but this is a FANTASTIC book. Definitely read it sometime.

Steph- GREAT review and interview. I enjoyed reading it and I'm glad you loved the book. :)

Liviania said...

I have a fetish for bioethics. ^_~

Actually, I kind of wished for more science.

Lenore Appelhans said...

I've had this in my pile forever and I really want to read it. I'll have to come by and read the interview later due to the spoilers...

Caroline said...

I've been DYING to read this book (I was also immediately sucked in by the gorgeous butterfly cover) and your amazing review makes me want to read it even more. Much more. (I really like the ethic-moral stuff, actually) Great interview, also. Hopefully I'll get my hands on this soon. :)

Steph said...

Hey guys! Credit to the questions go directly to Mary (and, okay, some to me. But mostly her). She's awesome this way!


Caroline & Lenore - you guys *HAVE* to read this novel! It's positively awesome. :D


Nurin said...

Love this book.
And great interview!

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