Searching for her soul

By Mary E. Pearson
JENNA Fox is 17. When she was 16 she was in an accident that put her in a coma for a year. She is awake now and every thing is different. Strange.
It’s not just that her family no longer live in Boston. It’s not just that Jenna can’t remember a single thing about her past. Or that every link she had with her life before the accident seems to have been severed.

Her parents whisper about her and watch her closely, with something like fear in their eyes. Her grandmother, whom she used to call Nana, but now automatically calls Lily, is physically and emotionally distant. “Why do you hate me?” Jenna asks her and Lily replies, “I don’t hate you, Jenna. I simply don’t have room for you.”

Yet Jenna, although she can’t remember events from a year ago, has distant memories of babyhood, memories of a time when Lily adored and cherished her. What could have happened to cause her feelings to change so drastically?

“How far would you go to save someone you love?” This question is printed across the book’s cover. How far did Jenna’s parents go to save her after the accident? So far that Jenna’s grandmother doesn’t approve?

Lily says that Jenna is “not natural”. But her own daughter, Claire (Jenna’s mother) was an in vitro baby. Claire says to Lily, “You always called me your miracle. Why can’t I have one too? Why do you get to decide when the miracles will end.”

What sort of miracle is Jenna? Mary E. Pearson does a good job of keeping you guessing and wondering. Every thing is seen from Jenna’s perspective so you share her confusion and worry and questions. Equally, you also learn things as she does, and feel her horror and anguish as the truth is slowly revealed.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox is classified as Young Adult (YA) science fiction, but Pearson has also written a disturbing and extremely gripping mystery, and a coming-of-age tale with a difference.

A common theme in YA literature, is the search for identity, but while the main character in most YA novels is trying to figure out who she is, Jenna is figuring out what she is. What makes one human? If it’s a soul, what is a soul? If it’s memories, what happens if you forget? If it’s a collection of cells and if you can keep those cells alive does it mean a human never needs to die?

Some of Pearson’s characters find it easier than others to come to terms with Jenna and all she stands for.

Their various doubts and worries are the seeds of the sort of bio-ethical questions that would arise not only in the event of further advances in the field of medicine, but also those currently posed, and that have been posed ever since man discovered how to prolong life beyond, some would say, its natural course.

Of course, what makes these questions so difficult to answer is that they involve humans and human emotions. We can all talk about what’s right, safe and natural, but how many of us would give a damn about ethics if it came to saving the life of a loved one? How far would you go to save someone you love?
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