Book Review: Origin

Let’s just start with the back of the book…

Pia has always known her destiny. She is meant to start a new race, a line of descendants who will bring an end to death. She has been bred for no other purpose, genetically engineered to be immortal and raised by a team of scientists in a secret compound hidden deep in the Amazon rainforest. Now those scientists have begun to challenge her, with the goal of training her to carry on their dangerous work.

For as long as she can remember, Pia’s greatest desire has been to fulfill their expectations. But on the night she turns seventeen, she finds a hole in the seemingly impenetrable fence that surround her sterile home. Free in the jungle for the first time in her life, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Unable to resist, she keeps sneaking out to see him. As they fall in love, they begin to piece together the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.

Origin is a beautifully told, electric new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever. But is eternal life worth living if you can’t spend it with the one you love?

Origin, by Jessica Khoury, is a thought-provoking book that made me question science experiments. I thought about both perspectives, the experimenter and the experimentee. It made me think about life, love, and ethics. I loved that the book felt so real that it made me question my own beliefs. For me, the more times I question myself, the more refined my views become. I love it.

Some reviewers on Amazon complained the book moved too slow. Perhaps…but I couldn’t put it down. Others complained about the animal torture and instalove. As I mentioned, the book made me question love and ethics. I don’t believe the story is promoting animal cruelty. In fact, the story is highlighting exposure therapy for behavior modification. I’m not going to elaborate more because I don’t want to spoil the story. Also the problem with instalove? C’mon, the story is for young readers and published by Scholastic…what are you expecting? Nevertheless, the love story is believable…she’s never met a person her age before. Of course she’d fall in love!

I picked up this book at a Scholastic Book Fair a few years ago and just got around to reading it. I wish I had read it sooner. It was a real joy to read Khoury’s exact language. Her word choice and the use of present tense made the words on the page play like a movie in my head. Here’s an example:

But as I follow Uncle Paolo to the laboratory, my bootlaces trailing in the mud and my hands clutching a struggling sparrow, the last thing I feel is perfect. (p.1)

I’m pleased to find out that this book is the first in a series. Each book follows a different set of characters. As one can imagine, it takes a lot of money to fund a super secret compound in the Amazon. And surprise! The people with the money were funding a variety of super secret projects.  Poof: instant series. Keep an eye out for reviews of Vitro and Kalahari.

In summary: I really enjoyed Origin. Young readers need plenty of science-y books that they will devour and will make them think and converse about the topics presented in the book.