YA Sci-Fi/Dystopian, 372 pages
Acquired and read: From the lovely folks manning the Penguin booth at BEA (NEVER going to get tired of telling people I actually went there); I read it within two days
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.
Disclaimer: This is a pre-release ARC received from the publisher. As such, please check any quotes or information against the finished copy of the book.
When I think back about my Origin reading experience, four words come to mind.
I hope that's enough to tell you from the get-go that this is one debut you can't pass up.
All Pia has ever known is the bountiful rainforest that engulfs her and the science compound she's been raised within; along with her mother and father and the other scientists that she chooses to label as her uncles and aunts. She has a pet jaguar, a magical birthday party to look forward to, and a goal to reach: shedding her weak shell of unnecessary human compassion to reach her full potential as an immortal beacon for a new race of mankind, and be allowed to learn the secret behind her own creation.
However - like any of the other YA heroines you've probably rubbed elbows with, before - that fairy-tale life is quickly melting away to show some hard iron bars. She isn't allowed to go out past the fence and explore the warm, beckoning rainforest. She's forced to experiment on animals (and not with some measly Maybelline cosmetics, either), and she has no idea where on Earth she actually is.
No, seriously. She isn't just being metaphorical. Her mom won't allow her a map.
All that changes in a sudden window of potential. A new scientist crashes the party, unleashing some old secrets Pia hasn't been privy to, and becoming her telescope outward to a world of discovery. And then there's that hole in the fence that she shimmies through in true Cinderella fashion (and on the night of her big birthday gala, no less!).
And the boy.
Yes, I'm sure your attention got caught on the last part, didn't it? *snorts* YA readers and their boys. I'm sure it'll thrill you even more to know that he's a native. Yes, a real hunting, anaconda-wrestling (and eating) man of the jungle.
Jacob Black, I don't think there's enough room in the woods for the two of ya.
And I think you know who's going to go.
Anyway...the book. I have to say that, in general, I enjoyed this WAY more than I thought I would. I mean, it's a dystopian. Or at least, I think it is - and if it is, you probably know that dystopians and I have a pretty rough love-hate relationship.
Origin nearly passed under my BEA radar, until I happened to be standing at the booth and the really awesome publishing representative guy was like, "Here, take this one, too", and I just took it and went.
Bless you, Awesome Penguin Guy. Bless you.
It was totally worth the whole cramming it under the table at the wedding reception and holding a napkin over it so I didn't splatter curry on it and avoiding grimy little kids wanting to take a look scenario in the end. I closed my eyes after I turned the last page and I saw green.
No lie. I think the cover got burned onto the back of my eyelids from too much staring.
As you can probably see, the rainforest was my favorite part. It's interesting that my recent sci-fi loves swing from a dying spacecraft (Across the Universe by Beth Revis) to one of Earth's last little patches of heaven. This is why I keep reading, even through all the disappointments and near-misses and "Gah, the hype! I can't look!" moments. It all pays off for those times when I turn the page and I practically fall into a new world, one that I've never visited (and might never find the time to, if it really exists) to the point that I can feel the loam under my nails and smell the dampness of an approaching rainstorm.
I'm really curious as to whether or not Jessica Khoury actually made it to the rainforest for research. Because if not, she is really dang good at this writing thing.
Okay...now for the cons. I will have to warn you that (and I've noticed a few other pre-readers mentioned this as well) it's a little annoying how Pia's rebellion gene suddenly kicks in after years of being trapped within the compound. There were also a few moments where I was like, "PIA, GET A GRIP AND GET A MOVE ON," but I think you'd have those screaming matches with any of the other YA heroines currently on the market, so I'm not sure if you'd count that as a viable con.
Also, Eio's background...well, this might count as a spoiler. But it was a little predicable for me. That's all I'm going to say.
In any case, I'm pleasantly surprised - and eagerly awaiting more - when it comes to Jessica Khoury. Kudos on a job well done (and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for making it a stand-alone so I don't have to agonize over a sequel).
Reader, I read it. And you should too. Embrace the green!
Warnings: Ladies and gentlemen, this is one of the few books this year where I can say there is no swearing. Thank God. There is a little bit of innuendo, though, and some disturbing sequences involving animals and laboratories (but I think the load of movies about mad scientists involving squeaking mice in their cages, large syringes and the ominous crack of fresh plastic gloves should have you prepared for this).