ORIGIN by Jessica Khoury
YA Science Fiction
394 pages, hardcover
Available now (September 2012)
Review copy provided by publisher for honest review
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.
It's rare you come across a stand-alone in young adult novels that is also a stand-out amongst all the sappy love stories and mythological creatures that roam the shelves. ORIGIN is just that novel.
Set deep in the Amazon rainforest, ORIGIN introduces us to Pia, a "perfect" specimen of humanity. She's faster, smarter than pretty much every other human on the planet and has this crazy-thick skin that nothing can break, rendering her practically indestructible...and immortal. She's happily living her insular little life with all her "aunts" and "uncles" teaching her how to be the best scientist she can be. But she knows there's something more out there. Something beyond the electrified fence that protects her from the world.
And then she gets a very unexpected opportunity in the form of a hole in the fence and she takes it. In the jungle, she runs into Eio and is introduced to a whole world outside her fence.
Pia is a fantastic character with a rich internal life. On one hand, she's intensely curious with an analytical mind but on the other, she just accepts that she lives in this jungle surrounded by scientists and barbed wire and has never seen the outside world. Despite this obvious downfall, Pia is a breath of fresh air with her curiosity and zest for life. Plus, she has a jaguar for a pet. How awesome is that?
Now, Eio and his tribe, the Ai'oan, are a bit cardboard cut-out. TSTL (too stupid to live) at times, Eio plays the big strong man as he rushes electrified fences to "rescue" Pia from her captors. The Ai'oan were merely present as backdrops to the unfolding drama at the lab. Then there was the insta-love...somewhat understandable on Pia's part, considering she's never seen a boy her age before but Eio has no real excuse for it except that she's different.
Despite its imperfections, ORIGIN is a quick and incredibly interesting take on the race to create the perfect human and what happens when that human is a seventeen-year-old girl.
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