The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

2008. 265 pages. Hardcover. Henry Holt and Company.

From: the public library

In a nutshell:

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox emerges from a  coma feeling quite altered from her past self.   The slow return of her memories do not really help, as she can remember purchasing a pair of socks more clearly than the accident that nearly destroyed her life.

Jenna’s parents are overwhelming her with protectiveness, while her grandmother remains strangely aloof.  As her parents have moved the family from Boston to California while she was in a coma, she knows no one but her family at first.  She does make new friends with a couple of similarly outcast kids at an alternative charter school, but even then, Jenna knows there’s something radically, even dangerously, different about herself.

Review:

I read The Adoration of Jenna Fox before I left for vacation and it’s a fast read.  The premise is very intriguing and while I had some ideas about the mystery that is Jenna Fox, there were details in the revelations that I didn’t see coming.

Pearson sets her book somewhere in the near future.  The futuristic elements take current technologies, threats and societal changes and push them to a plausible ‘next level.’  For instance, Jenna’s grandmother works to preserve genetically diverse plants. That is something people are doing today, but in Pearson’s future version of the world, the lack of biodiversity is almost total.

I didn’t completely care for the writing style.  I’m not sure if this is a YA thing, but Pearson used a lot of short choppy sentence fragments in her writing.  I think the point of this technique is for impact and power, but it doesn’t have that effect on me.  Here is an example:

Choice
I needed it like I needed air.
But no one could hear me.
No one could listen.
No words. No sound.
No voice.
I couldn’t even dream myself away.
Choices were made.
None of them mine.
At first I wondered if it was hell.
And then I knew it was.

To be fair, this particular excerpt is one of several passages in the book that are set apart from the rest of the text, breaking away from the story to convey Jenna’s darker, more submerged memories and feelings.  So the whole book doesn’t look like a stanza of song lyric.  And while the sentence fragments are most concentrated in these breakaway passages, they are pervasive in the rest of the book.  It’s not that sentence fragments should be completely avoided but for me, they cease to be effective when used so much.

Despite this detraction, I did find like the story’s musing on science and ethics.  I wonder if The Adoration of Jenna Fox could prove a good “dipping in your toes” book for kids who don’t think they like science fiction.

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10 Comments

Filed under Book Review

10 responses to “The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

  1. Nice review. I also am unaffected by short choppy sentences. They do not have the desired effect on me either. I actually find run-on sentences more impactful and powerful to me since when I’m in similar situations, or dark moods as the case may be, everything seems to be racing and happening quickly. So yea, boo on short choppiness.

  2. In defense of YA, short choppy sentences intended to be powerful and affecting are not confined to YA writers. (Kate Morton, anyone?) But yeah, I remember being bothered by that when I read Adoration of Jenna Fox.

  3. Great review! I’ve had this on my TBR for a while now, but I just never got the time to get around to it. I definitely agree with the short sentences though. I think it interrupts the flow of the book and makes it harder to connect to the characters and the storyline.

  4. This reminds me that I need to write my review for this book. I thought it read very very young … I wanted so much more from this book and it seemed very simplistic when it could have delved much more into the ideas presented (which were good and interesting).

  5. Erin – Since I enjoy Faulkner’s style of writing, yeah, I think I’m more partial to that long stream-of-consciousness type writing.

    Jenny – I wasn’t trying to knock YA, but I am wondering if it is a tendency there. But yeah, it shows up in ‘adult’ fiction too.

    toothy – It is a book that some really love, so I think it’s worth checking out to figure out where you are on the spectrum.

    Jenners – I think I’ll have to keep an eye for what other books on similar themes are out there that delve deeper into the ideas and have stronger writing.

  6. I have noticed this short choppy sentence thing in the YA books I’ve been reading recently, and I’m not a fan either. Both Unwind and The Light are plagued by them, and they were more distracting then impacting. In both of these books, though, it seemed to be frequently used to convey a sense of cynicism, or aloof coolness.

    Fortunately, it’s not a requirement for all YA fiction!

  7. I quite enjoyed this one (review: http://mentalfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/02/book-review-adoration-of-jenna-fox-by.html) but I remember skipping the pages where they were Jenna’s thoughts (or something like that) and I think the passage you quote was one of those pages.

    You know, you said “I wonder if The Adoration of Jenna Fox could prove a good “dipping in your toes” book for kids who don’t think they like science fiction.” – I think I’ll have to agree! I haven’t read dystopian books before and it was my first one, and it definitely got me interested in reading more of this genre!

    • Nice! Have you read the Westerfeld trilogy (Uglies, Pretties, Specials)? It’s a YA dystopian series that I really enjoyed last year.

      And yeah, the pages with Jenna’s thoughts seem to invite skimming as there’s not much content there in those chopped sentences. The passage I quoted was one of those pages.

      • Now that you mentioned it, I HAVE read Uglies last year (before this book) – I guess at that time I didn’t know there’s a term for this kind of books so didn’t even think of it! I did like Uglies, and plan to read the rest of the series at some point. Though I have to say my favorite so far is The Hunger Games series!

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