From the Publisher
“* Raises the ante in unexpected ways until the very last page.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
“* This is a beautiful blend of science fiction, medical thriller, and teen-relationship novel that melds into a seamless whole that will please fans of all three genres.” School Library Journal, starred review
“* Outstanding examination of identity, science and ethics.” Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“Readers will respond eagerly to this provocative novel.” Kirkus Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Special
“What will hold readers most are the moral issues of betrayal, loyalty, sacrifice, and survival.” Booklist
“Fascinating and thought provoking.” Kliatt
“This novel is truly unlike any other I have ever read and is a breath of fresh air in the often predictable world of teen literature.” ELLEgirl
“This is an amazingly powerful, thought-provoking, just brilliant novel.” Teen Book Review
“An extraordinarily fine novel.” VOYA
“Gut-punch plot twists.” The Seattle Times
Sometime in the near future, Jenna Fox, 17, awakens from an 18-month-long coma following a devastating accident, her memory nearly blank. She attempts reorientation by watching videos of her childhood, "recorded beyond reason" by worshipful parents, but mysteries proliferate. Jenna can recite passages from Thoreau yet can't remember having any friends. As memories return, however, Jenna starts picking at the explanation her parents have spun until it unravels. Pearson (A Room on Lorelei Street ) uses each revelation to steadily build tension until the true horror comes into focus. Even then Pearson does not stop; she raises the ante in unexpected ways until the very last page. Clues are supplied by the supporting cast: Jenna's father, who made his fortune in biotechnology; a classmate whose loss of limbs has turned her into a crusader for medical ethics; Jenna's Catholic grandmother, who is hostile to her. A few lapses in logic- if Jenna's father is world-famous and the family in hiding, why does she enroll in school under her real name?-can be forgiven in favor of expert plotting and the complex questions raised about ethics and the nature of the soul. Ages 14-up. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Paula McMillen
Jenna Angeline Fox has ostensibly just awakened from a year-long coma, supposedly the result of a serious accident, and she cannot remember anything about her prior life. Her parents assure her that will change. They are living in a crumbling California house with her maternal grandmother, Lily, who seems inexplicably hostile, although Jenna feels sure that was not always the case. Jenna's memory does begin to come back, but in strange ways. She can remember things that happened when she was much too young to have clear memories (her baptism), and yet she cannot remember if she ever had any friends. Her parents have documented her life in hours of video recordings, and Jenna watches them in an effort to recover her life and herself. What she finds is that her parents adored her, almost to the point of obsession. Can someone love you too much? As a parent, what would you do to save your child? This is a speculative novel set in perhaps a not-too-distant future when biogenetics can preserve and even promulgate life. Science has run amuck, and millions have died or been maimed by antibiotic-resistant germs. The backlash has created government mandates about what some see as life-saving technology. Jenna's narrative as she gradually uncovers the mystery of her history and existence is haunting and compelling. The other charactersfamily members, neighborhood friends, school friendsare equally complex and believable. Teen readers will be drawn in because the story is well-written, it is well-paced, and it deals with many of the same relationship and existential issues that shape adolescence. But the story also pushes us to think about larger philosophical questions such aswhat is it that makes us truly human? Neal Shusterman's Unwind and Nancy Farmer's The House of the Scorpion examine similarly thorny dilemmas about the value and meaning of an individual life. This book would be a great catalyst for a discussion around science and ethicsabout our responsibilities to one another, to the environment and to society at large. Reviewer: Paula McMillen, Ph.D.
VOYA - Hilary Crew
"Then what am I?" asks seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox when she is told the truth. When her body is beyond saving after a car accident, her father's medical team creates a new, "illegal" body infused with "Bio-Gel." Her brain is scanned, improved, and uploaded, but all that physically remains of the original Jenna is "ten per cent" of her brain-the "butterfly." She remembers the accident-for which she was blamed-and discovers the back-ups of her brain and those of her two friends who were killed. Jenna then makes a decision between betraying her parents or being loyal to her friends and between protecting herself or sacrificing her dependence on a machine-should things go wrong. Now living in California, where she will have a longer "shelf-life," Jenna slowly begins to make a new path for herself. Pearson creates an extraordinarily fine novel. There are clear explanations of how the new Jenna is created. The ethics of biotechnological advances are debated and seamlessly woven into a well-developed story. Pearson writes with acuity about the dilemma of parents who adored their daughter and could not let her go and of the complex relationships among Jenna, her parents, and her grandmother. Jenna's innermost emotions and recovered memories, including reliving the "hell" of days in a dark place, unable to express her wish to die, are conveyed in free verse on pages interspersed with her first-person narrative. In this beautifully written novel, Pearson deals with the heart of what it means to be human. Reviewer: Hilary Crew
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 18.
Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes from a coma and doesn’t know who she is. She has been involved in a horrific accident and is brought home to recuperate with her mother and her grandmother, two women she does not remember. In fact, she is not really at home; her parents have moved miles away to give her time to fully recover. And, she has the distinct impression that her grandmother is angry with her. When Jenna insists on being able to go back to school, she is sent to a charter school where every student has had some difficulty to overcome--some have emotional scars, like Ethan; others, like Allys, are struggling with physical handicaps. Jenna becomes friends with both, and quadriplegic Allys draws Jenna and Ethan into a political passion for strict medical controls. Gradually Jenna starts to glimpse her past life, the accident, and strange memories that don’t make sense to her until she is able to come face to face with the medical practice that has saved her. The novel is part mystery and part science fiction. Set in the future, it raises issues of biomedical ethics, suspended animation and the enduring human spirit. Jenna narrates, and we experience her confusion as she struggles to make sense of events she only vaguely remembers. Students will be intrigued by the medical treatments that allow her to recover and there is much to debate in terms of how far science should go in medical treatment. Is there a line that should not be crossed? This is fascinating and thought provoking. Reviewer: Janis Flint-Ferguson
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up
Mary Pearson's novel (Holt, 2008) provides a thought-provoking and intriguing examination of what really makes us human and where to draw the line with fast developing technological and medical advances. Jenna Fox wakes from a coma more than a year after having an "accident." With no memory, she slowly learns to function physically, but she can't seem to connect emotionally. Written in a beautiful symphony of revealed memories, Jenna slowly begins to recognize that a secret is being kept from her and something complex and dangerous is going on. As she realizes that she essentially died in the infamous "accident" and was reborn through her father's controversial discovery. Jenna begins to question biomedical ethics and human nature. Narrator Jenna Lamia excels at evoking the haunting, yet detached way that Jenna begins to connect the events in her life. Combining science fiction, medical mystery, and teen relationships into an excellent package that is satisfying from beginning to end, this is a must-have for all collections.-Jessica Miller, New Britain Public Library, CT
Outstanding examination of identity, science and ethics. "I used to be someone. / Someone named Jenna Fox. / That's what they tell me," begins the hypnotic first-person narration. She woke from an 18-month coma two weeks ago, but she doesn't know how to smile or who her parents are. She watches recordings of each childhood year but they ring no bells. Why has her family brought her to a hidden cottage in California, distant from home and doctors? Mental flashes reveal a void of paralysis where "darkness and silence go on forever." Was that her coma? Voices call Jenna, hurry! into her ears-are those from the night of the accident, which she can't remember? Jenna recognizes that her gait is awkward and her memory peculiar (spotty about childhood while disturbingly perfect about academics), but asking questions provokes only furtive glances between her parents. Pearson reveals the truth layer by layer, maintaining taut suspense and psychological realism as she probes philosophical notions of personhood. A deeply humane and gripping descendent of Peter Dickinson's classic Eva. (Science fiction. YA)
Read an Excerpt
I look at my fingers again, the ones that trembled and shook just a few days ago at Mr. Bender’s kitchen table. I bring them together, fingertip to fingertip, like a steeple. Each one perfect by appearance. But something is not . . . right. Something that I still have no word for. It is a dull twisting that snakes through me. Is this a tangled feeling that everyone my age feels? Or is it different? Am I different? I slide my steepled fingers, slowly, watching them interlace. Trying to interlace, like a clutched desperate prayer, but again, I feel like the hands I am lacing are not my own, like I have borrowed them from a twelve-fingered monster. And yet, when I count them, yes, there are ten. Ten exquisitely perfect, beautiful fingers.