The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a subtle dystopian novel set in the near future in northern California. Jenna Fox wakes up 18 months after a devastating accident. She can’t remember anything about her own life, but she guesses her parents are hiding something from her. Slowly, Jenna pieces together an image of the real story. As you may guess, the dystopian elements of The Adoration of Jenna Fox revolve around medical technology, and ask some serious questions about science meddling with nature.

Author Mary E. Pearson’s writing is extremely restrained. I’m revising my own WIP and it seems like I can’t read a book anymore without mentally editing out superfluous language. This book had almost none, as far as I could tell. The language was tight and only told the necessary details. After spending so many tedious hours editing, I’m convinced this is a far greater talent than lush, descriptive writing (as much as I love reading and writing lush, descriptive writing). Pearson has stepped out of her own way and allowed the reader to experience the story clearly and without distraction.

Some readers might find this style a little bare. I found it refreshing. It feels like I read many YA books that sound just a little too conversational, just a little too flabby. They can be fun, but I can also be left with the feeling that I’ve read about 50,000 more words than necessary, and that makes for a frustrating reading experience. I definitely didn’t feel that way while reading The Adoration of Jenna Fox

The reader learns the details of the accident and its aftermath at the same pace as Jenna. There’s an immediacy to the unfolding events that made me feel completely connected to the book. However, on a couple of occasions, Jenna made the connections quicker than I did, and I was left confused for a brief time. I had the same information as her, but she was quick to be horrified or angry, while I was left thinking “Wait…what just happened?” A few more pages of reading cleared up my confusion, but with just a little clarification during the transpiring events, I could have been on the same page as Jenna.  

Dystopian is such an exciting genre because of its potential for diversity. There are action-packed dystopians like The Hunger Games and the Uglies series, as well as subtler, more thought-driven dystopians like The Adoration of Jenna Fox, Genesis by Bernard Beckett (which I hope to review soon) and The Handmaid’s Tale, an adult read that every fan of YA dystopian should read because it’s exquisite. I enjoy both kinds of dystopian, but I think my heart belongs to the thought-driven variety because I think they take advantage of the possibilities of the genre. Dystopian is wonderful because it can provide the reader with a personal philosophical journey that other genres can’t; dystopian allows us to contemplate how our actions may affect our future. This is a wonderful theme for young people to explore and the reason I think YA dystopian has flourished so much recently. The Adoration of Jenna Fox paints a picture of a future that is as complex and recognizable as our present, possessed of philosophical paradoxes that touch individuals differently. I very much enjoyed contemplating the thought-provoking questions this book posed.