Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Very Classy Frankenstein Story

A Frankenstein story is one in which scientists play God, messing with nature to create life. The end result is rarely good. (Think Jurassic Park. Or Alex Award winner Never Let Me Go.)

Like Never Let Me Go, The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson is a very high quality Frankenstein story. Its characterization equals its plotting, and it's very elegantly written. The outcome for The Adoration of Jenna Fox is far different than the outcome in Never Let Me Go, though. It's not your run-of-the-mill Frankenstein story ending.

Jenna Fox has just come out of a lengthy coma at the beginning of her story, which is set in a future United States that has suffered your usual futuristic disasters involving disease, earthquake, and economic breakdown. She seems in remarkably good shape, though, and the only medical person she sees is her father, the head of some kind of biotech firm. She has survived a horrendous accident that she can't recall. Things come back to her slowly. Things come to the reader slowly.

Slowly, in this case, is not a bad thing.

This book deals with some big issues, such as what it means to be human (I'm sorry, I kept thinking of Data on STTNG--not that there's anything wrong with that), parental love, rationing health care, and identity. But it doesn't do it in a pretentious, heavy-handed way. The Adoration of Jenna Fox has a scifi/thriller aspect that keeps it from feeling like too much of a problem book and a teen angst problem aspect that keeps it from falling into scifi/thriller cliches.

Personally, I could have done without the epilogue, but I never like epilogues.

I think some might argue that The Adoration of Jenna Fox ends the way it does because it's YA and YA must be hopeful. But I think that doesn't give it credit for asking an interesting question about the traditonal Frankenstein scenario--Is it really wrong to do this?

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a Cybils nominee in the Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction category.


Libby said...

sounds intriguing...just put it on my library request list!

Gail Gauthier said...

My work is done.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book. I thought the way Pearson handled the limited POV with a hero who just CAN'T know anything was fantastic. Also, Jenna is, by default--at the beginning--a very nonactive person, but becomes SUCH an active hero.

Gail Gauthier said...

One of the things I particularly liked was the way that Jenna, as she recalled more and more, wasn't always a one hundred percent lovely person. It was a good combination of a real YA character with a science fiction scenario.

Anonymous said...

And that she hadn't been a one hundred percent strong person "before." I loved having the grandmother character to help reveal these kinds of things.

Gail Gauthier said...

Another nice point--parental love was portrayed in a complex way. It would have been very easy to do an "oppressive parental love" thing here and portray the parents as heavies. But the author didn't go that way.

Anonymous said...

Yes, nobody made a "right" or "wrong" choice. Perfect way to show there may not have been one.