The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson was mentioned by someone on a dystopia website, so I assumed it was. I am not sure it’s a YA dystopian novel under standard definitions, but it’s intriguing enough that I hope my readers will grant me some leeway.
The world hasn’t ended in this book. Well, not entirely. There is mention of a huge earthquake in Southern California fifteen years ago in which 19,000 people died, as well as the Aureus epidemic, similar to the the Influenza Epidemic near the beginning of the 20th century, this more recent one killing twenty million people. However, the Aureus epidemic was caused by too many vaccinations and overuse of antibiotics which created this deadly bacteria strain. Yet, the outer world Jenna lives in has not devolved into chaos. People still go to jobs, drive cars, children attend school, things appear relatively normal. Normal except for the fact that Jenna Fox can’t remember – ANYTHING.
She suddenly awakes into consciousness and struggles to understand who she is. Her adoring but overprotective parents give her discs of all the home movies they took of her growing up. Jenna can’t seem to relate to the person she sees in the movies and is uncomfortable that no friends come to visit her, plus her grandmother seems to dislike her intensely. Lonely and isolated she becomes friends with a neighbor, an older eccentric artist. The time she spends with him is the first time she feels comfortable in her own skin.
As she starts to deal with her situation, she fights her parents for permission to attend school. Reluctantly, they allow her to go to an alternative charter school where she is befriended by Allys, who lost her limbs to a virus and volunteers for the FSEB, the Federal Science Ethics Board, a watchdog organization that ensures that medical resources and costs are kept under control and that the conditions that led to the Aureus virus don’t happen again. Then there’s another new classmate, Ethan, who makes her feel like a normal girl.
What I really liked about this book is the way it kept me guessing. Too often in books, movies and TV I know where the plot is going right away and then I am disappointed as I wait for the words or the acting to catch up to what I already know. This book kept me off center, I made a guess about Jenna’s accident, but it turned out I was wrong.
Most of all, I think adults who don’t understand why other adults read YA dystopian fiction, don’t get that these books are not really about the monsters and gore, the action, the fictitious disasters, etc. I read these books because they raise questions. In the case of The Adoration of Jenna Fox the question is, “How far would you go to save someone you love?”