Middle Grade (and YA) Mondays: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

I’ve been reading more YA than MG books these days, partially because I simply enjoy them, partially because I’m working on a YA sci fi, and partially because I’m always on the lookout for books that will work for advanced middle graders who tell me they aren’t interested in love triangles or sparkly vampires.

I mentioned several books in an earlier post as being a great books for advanced middle grade readers and got many more suggestions in the comments, so thanks to everyone for that. For those interested in a softer speculative fiction story that isn’t overly graphic or violent, I want to talk about The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson, which, to me, has great potential to spark some interesting discussion.

from GoodReads:

Who is Jenna Fox? Seventeen-year-old Jenna has been told that is her name. She has just awoken from a coma, they tell her, and she is still recovering from a terrible accident in which she was involved a year ago. But what happened before that? Jenna doesn’t remember her life. Or does she? And are the memories really hers? Set in a near future America, it takes readers on an unforgettable journey through questions of bio-medical ethics and the nature of humanity.

I enjoy a good dystopian tale, but sometimes I get a little exhausted from the violence that pervades YA dystopians these days. I enjoyed Jenna Fox in the same way I enjoyed Gattaca, an under-rated film that takes place in a near-future where people’s genetic make-up is accessible and their lives are pre-determined by society’s prejudices of the genetically “inferior.” Both are slower, thought-provoking stories, more focused on theme than fast-paced plot.

Adoration slowly unravels the mystery of “what” Jenna has become since her accident. It is an extremely internal story. An extraordinary percentage of the book is made up of Jenna’s thoughts. But I enjoyed waking up from her coma with her, trying to figure out the world around her. Simple things that we don’t think about – the dual meanings and subtleties of words that she has to relearn. Facial expressions that she has to identify to understand if someone is happy, sad, or lying.

I thought the writing was strong, in many places poetic. The characters were 3-dimensional. People are not all good or bad. Good people can make bad decisions. And second guess those decisions. Do the wrong things for the right reason. And even then, there’s grey area between right and wrong.

The book looks at what it means to be human. If we could easily replace parts of humans, how much could we replace before the person is no longer human? What part of us makes us human? These are the ideas that the book addresses as well as what lengths one would go to as a parent to save their child.

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12 Comments

Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, YA literature

12 responses to “Middle Grade (and YA) Mondays: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

  1. Sounds like an interesting book. I loved Gattaca . . . so I’ll check this out. Great Review!

  2. I’ve been hearing a lot about this book. I’ll have to check it out.

  3. Interesting premise, with the questions about what part of us makes us human. Thanks for the review.

  4. Thanks for this suggestion. I am getting ready to teach a creative writing class to some advanced middle grade readers (after-school program), and I like to have book suggestions for them that aren’t overly violent. This one sounds perfect.

    • yes, for kids who like to think a little deeper about things, and enjoy speculative fiction, I think this would be a good choice.

      I listened to it on audiobook, btw – which I think worked really well considering so much of the story is made up of Jenna’s thoughts.

  5. A great title, too.

    Thanks for the review.

  6. Pingback: Childrens Audiobooks Cd | All On Audio Books

  7. Honestly, I haven’t read THE HUNGER GAMES simply because I don’t think I can withstand the violent premise (yes, yes, I know; I’ve heard the story is INCREDIBLE, but…)

    This book sounds different. Your questions in the closing paragraph are intriguing.

  8. Danika, I loved this book and its thought-provoking premise about what it means to be human. Thanks for featuring it (although I’ve always thought of it as much more YA than MG simply because it delves into bio-medical ethics — not exactly MG territory). The sequel is fantastic too. Another book you might like is HOUSE OF THE SCORPION, which also explores the nature of humanity, in this case whether or not a clone can be considered human.

    Side note to Barbara: lots of my customers hesitate to buy THE HUNGER GAMES for their kids or grandkids and say to me, oh, isn’t it violent? I’ve heard it’s about teens killing teens. My answer? What do you think war is? We send eighteen-year-olds to kill other teens and no one objects. And our wars are covered by the media. So the televising of the Games is not that far-fetched.

    Suzanne Collins is strongly anti-war. The trilogy, just like her previous sequence (the Gregor books) is really all about the folly of warfare, and for that alone it’s an important read.

    • Hi Joanne – oh, yes, it’s definitely a YA book. I’ve been on the hunt for good books for advanced middle graders who aren’t interested in romantic triangles yet. Books that aren’t too overly graphic/violent. I thought this fit the bill.

      Re: Hunger Games – I almost didn’t read it b/c I thought the child on child violence would be too much for me. But it worked. And I was amazed that Collins could create a sympathetic protagonist in this arena. There’s an over-the-top satire-esque quality to it that hits close to home as well regarding our obsession with reality television. No doubt if the gladiator days returned, North Americans would be watching the games on TV.

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