Author: Jessica Khoury. Release date: 2012. Publisher: Razorbill. ISBN: 9781595145956.
Annotation: Pia is perfect: the sole member of a race of immortals created deep in the jungles of the Amazon. She has spent her entire life behind the walls of the secret compound of scientists who made her and doesn’t know anything about what lies beyond the cage she calls home. Everything changes, however, when she discovers a hole in the fence and ventures into the jungle where she meets Eio, a boy her age from the outside world.
Personal thoughts: I really liked the concept of this book and, although I had some trouble reading through some of the parts pertaining to animal testing, overall, I enjoyed it. Pia is a very likable character and it was interesting watching her grow and become more “human” as the story progressed. While I don’t think this novel is for everyone, I would definitely recommend it to science-fiction fans who want something a little different from the norm.
Plot summary: Pia is perfect. The only member of a race of immortals created deep in the jungles of the Amazon, she has spent her life in the walls of the compound of scientists who have dedicated their lives to engineering more people like her. Pia knows that her destiny lies in one day joining the scientists in discovering how to quickly create more immortals; currently the process takes five generations and Pia is the result of work that began in 1912. Everything changes, however, when Pia discovers a hole in the fence that surrounds her home and ventures out into the jungle. There she meets Eio, a handsome boy who lives in a neighboring village of natives. Pia has never seen someone her age and is fascinated by Eio and the rest of the villagers. Although she knows it’s wrong, she continues to visit Eio and the village, learning more about the outside world than she ever thought possible. The more she discovers, however, the more she begins to realize that not everything inside her compound of scientists is what it seems and that the truth behind her creation might be deadlier than she ever imagined.
Review: From debut author Jessica Khoury comes this Michael Crichton-esque novel for young adults about science, danger and, of course, romance. One of the best things about Origin is that the author does her best not to dumb down the scientific aspects of the plot for the reader. Pia’s creation isn’t paranormal: she was engineered by the very group of scientists that are the only family she has ever known. Some aspects of the operations of Little Cam, the compound Pia calls home, might be difficult for readers to make it through, particularly the elements pertaining to animal testing. Part of the story, however, is showing how Pia’s humanity despite her immortality impacts the events of the novel, and her growing separation from the scientists of Little Cam becomes more evident as she grows and changes. The romance that develops between Pia and Eio, the handsome eighteen-year-old from the neighboring village of natives, is enjoyable and not over-the-top, making the book relatable for teen boys and girls alike. Overall, a well-written and thought-provoking novel from an author with a lot of promise.
Reading level: Grade 8+
Similar titles: Michael Crichton novels (Jurassic Park, Next, etc.)
Themes: Science, genetic engineering, the Amazon, duty, immortality, danger, secrets, romance, betrayal.
Awards/Reviews: Positive review from Kirkus and Booklist.
Series Information: N/A
- Why do you think the scientists of Little Cam kept the outside world a secret from Pia? Do you think it was the right choice?
- How do you explain the “tests” that was Pia was put through? What was Uncle Paolo hoping to accomplish with the tests?
- Why do you think Pia was so intrigued by Eio?
- Why did it take Pia such a long time to warm up to Aunt Harriet?
- Would you have been able to do what Uncle Paolo asked Pia to do to Sneeze? Why or why not?
- Do you think Pia made the right choice in the end? Why or why not?