Friday, July 6, 2012

Book Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury

Release Date: September 4, 2012
(Thanks ATWT for letting me participate on this tour!)
Published by: Penguin

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost. This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost.

Firstly let me state the reasons why I was interested in this book, because they might not be the same as yours and that might be one reason why you would like the book when I did not. I thought it would have some cool science fiction - a girl who was immortal and raised by scientists?  Hell yeah! - and I thought the setting would be cool too - the Amazon?  How many YA books have you read which are set there? - but... no. I think having high expectations was not a good thing.  The marketing says something like "a breathtaking tale on the age-old desire to never die" - something along those lines... The problem is that I feel like this book did not add anything at all to the legion of books that already discuss this very subject.

Why this book and I did not get along:

1. (--) Pia, the protagonist - It's not very often that I'll continue reading a book if I dislike the protagonist but that's what I did for Origin.  Pia is a product of her upbringing - that is to say, a lot of people tell her she is perfect, so she is incredibly conceited and arrogant and spoiled and throws tantrums when someone dares hint otherwise. Yes, she is also observant and smart (how can she not be - her memory is superb), but all of those other qualities make it hard to sympathize with her, even when she eventually does the right thing. I couldn't find it in me to care about her at all. 

After I finished, I looked at Goodreads to see if others had felt the same way. This review sums up my feelings for Pia: "How has Pia reached her 17th birthday without ever questioning her existence or her relationship to the outside world? Pia is surprisingly incurious and unintellectual for someone raised by with a cadre of brilliant scientists. Her passivity and naivety keeps the novel from delving deeply into some thought-provoking questions."

2. (--) World-building - When I saw the book summary, I thought that the world-building would involve some scientific means of immortality - I don't know what exactly that would entail, but something about altering her genes or her vision or bodily functions to ensure that she aged slower than the normal human. There are scientists who work on reversing the effects of aging, after all... but the story felt more like a fairy tale or paranormal romance than science fiction. And the world building regarding the Amazon, Eio's tribe, and Little Cam was lacking. Some details were clearly there more for the advancement of the plot than because they'd actually happen. Sometimes there are really great descriptions of the places, but I didn't feel like I was there with Pia. Some things were randomly brought up - like the corporation that funds Little Cam - without ever being mentioned again, or rather not in a threatening way. It made me wonder if there was a sequel to this book or if there were just these random details. I also didn't find Eio's tribe to be very believable. And the "secret" to immortality - saw it from miles away, and was rather disappointed with it.

3. (--) Marketing - This is a supremely compelling debut novel that blends the awakening romance of Matched with the mystery and jungle conspiracy of Lost. <-- No... I love Lost. Do not compare this to it.  I could see the resemblance to Matched, and some of the writing is poetic enough that it reminded me of Cassia and Ky, but nothing in this book reminded me of Lost... well, except for the fact that it's in the jungle.  If anything, this book reminded me more of Avatar than Lost.  It has that same indigenous vs. settler feel.

4. (--) Romance - I'm sorry but since I couldn't care for Pia, I couldn't see why Eio did. Nor did I understand how he could proclaim such intense love for Pia after they had hung out four times?  He wanted her to stay with him, even though she hadn't exactly been the kindest person (and he too had prejudices against some of the scientists... Prejudices that she too had, and he commented on -- so what makes her so more endearing than them to him? [Besides the fact that she's "beautiful"]). Eio was a nice character and romantic interest but he also lacked depth for me.

5. (--) The Message - Okay, I don't usually care that much about the message, but again because it deals with science, it bothers me. Who are the villains in this story?  A bunch of scientists because they are trying to play God.  Okay, first off: cliche. Complete cliche.  And this book does nothing for it. But what really, really pisses me off is that there's not one "good" scientist (it's hinted that some of them might not have much of a choice, but that isn't really developed either.). Some of them do help Pia (and I'd say more about those people but that'd be a spoiler)... but in the end, most of them are okay with this? The kind of "science" going on at Little Cam? Are you serious? And are you seriously going to pass along the message to teenagers that scientists are bloodthirsty and evil and will do everything in their power to fulfill their ambition????

In short, this book wasn't a DNF for me because I kept hoping that the premise, which seems incredible to me, wouldn't be wasted...  But harsh as this sounds, I didn't find anything in this story to hint otherwise.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for such an honest review. I've got this one coming up on my reading queue at a later date, so I'll be paying close attention when the time comes to read it. Hopefully I won't become too frustrated.


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