Monday, March 18, 2013

Origin by Jessica Khoury

Release date: September 4, 2012
Author info: Website | Twitter | Facebook
Publisher: Razorbill
Pages: 394
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Buy the book: Barnes & Noble | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.
I had low expectations for Origin. I have absolutely NO idea where those came from, since most of the reviews I've read in the past couple of days have been largely positive. I honestly think I just decided to have low expectations, though I don't know why. Luckily, my made-up expectations were exceeded, though I still had a number of complaints.

Now, to begin with I was SO BORED reading this book. I'm one of those people that doesn't like to stop reading a book once I've gotten 100 or so pages into it, so I powered through. It took almost 200 pages, though, for me to actually get curious to find out what happens next. There was too much day to day of what Pia's doing and some heavy editing would not have hurt it in the least. Once I finally trudged through the immense set up to the actual story, I got into the story.

Pia has lived in Little Cam the entirety of her almost seventeen years, and has only taken thirteen steps outside of the compound. But when a new scientist shows up and she sneaks through a hole in the fence and meets a boy from the village, everything changes. I thought Pia, while not an especially endearing character, was interesting. With no knowledge of the outside world or experience with people outside of the scientist's in the compound, she's lived the ultimate sheltered life and is told day in and day out that she's "perfect"; she's immortal, with enhanced senses, agility, reflexes, and endurance. I thought it mostly made sense that she'd not question her surroundings too much, since she's not known anything else. She has no awareness of how large the world outside the compound is, and because everyone she's ever known is with her, she doesn't have much desire to venture outside. She's been conditioned to think it's dangerous outside and that every person she'd meet would want to harm her. But with the addition of a new scientist, Harriet Fields, Pia becomes aware of how little she knows and sets out to fulfill her natural curiosity. Pia is not endearing because, largely, she's whiny, indecisive, and a bit narcissistic (though this one makes a bit of sense, it's still not an attractive quality). With the progression of the book she does seem to gain a handle on reality, and become less whiny and narcissistic, though still indecisive.

The highlight of Origin is its lush descriptions of the jungle. By far. Jessica Khoury has either firsthand knowledge or has done quite a lot of research. You definitely feel like you're in the jungle with Pia as she explores it for the first time, and it makes for a great reading experience. I know I definitely feel like taking a sojourn down to the rainforest for spring break this year to see it for myself.

Generally, once I got into the story, I enjoyed Origin. The pace picked up and I found myself devouring the book. I had a few complaints about characters (and relationships!) not being developed enough and the science, but those didn't particularly inhibit my enjoyment of the book. There was a lot of potential in the idea of the story that was lost in execution, which is regrettable. In all, I found it to be an enjoyable, if not especially polished, read.

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