Sunday, December 4, 2011

Module 8: The Adoration of Jenna Fox

Black and Blue Wing by Amelia Kay Photography

In Mary Pearson's The Adoration of Jenna Fox, seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes up one day after being in a coma for a year to find that she both is and is not herself.  Through the miracles of medical science, her life was saved when she should have never survived the accident.  But what about her friends?  What about her life?  Why can't she remember some things, while she can recite all of Walden?  The Adoration of Jenna Fox follows Jenna as she tries to discover who she is, and what she is, why she is.


The Adoration of Jenna Fox is fairly fast-paced, and it tackles (essentially) bioethics versus emotional desires, and what happens when those two things are entwined to a drastic degree.  One thing I enjoyed about the book was the tying in of Walden to some thematic elements of the story (both well-known passages like I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, and others like No way of thinking or doing, however ancient, can be trusted without proof.  What everybody echoes or in silence passes by as true today may turn out to be a falsehood tomorrow).  Additionally, the aesthetic/structural decision to put some of Jenna's deepest thoughts on grey pages with poetic-verse-blocked text makes a visual distinction between current Jenna and the other Jenna that exists.  Writing a story about a girl who has a type of amnesia (in a way) could become very tiresome for the reader, but Pearson tackles this hurdle of narrative voice well by tempering Jenna's confusion and doubt with enough pepperings of what happened at a quick enough pace to keep from frustrating the reader with what could have been excessive prose about not knowing oneself.  Pearson asks what it means to be human, and what we do for love.  Some readers may feel that Pearson is moralizing from time to time; Blue Goo/Bio Gel is a clear stand-in for stem cell research (the book's official discussion guide makes this connection as well); it seems that Pearson makes an effort to pose the questions of bioethics to readers in an effort to get them to think about complex issues, rather than give a definite good versus bad lesson.  I do wish that the characters of Ethan and Dane were a little more developed, and that Allys and Jenna's relationship were examined more throughout the meat of the story.  Readers can continue the story with The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles).


"An '[o]utstanding examination of identity, science and ethics,' wrote Kirkus in a starred review. Spotlighted in our Sci-Fi & Fantasy issue, this chilling novel asks readers to consider how far is too far in the field of biotechnology. When Jenna wakes up after a months-long coma she finds herself understandably disoriented. But this feeling doesn't improve, but worsens, as she realizes that her body isn't behaving the way It used to, and that her mind seems to be stuffed with facts that it never knew before, And why does her beloved grandmother seem to hate her?" (Kirkus Reviews, 2008)

"Gr 9 Up --Mary Pearson's novel (Holt, 2008) provides a thought-provoking and intriguing examination of what really makes us human and where to draw the line with fast developing technological and medical advances. Jenna Fox wakes from a coma more than a year after having an "accident." With no memory, she slowly learns to function physically, but she can't seem to connect emotionally. Written in a beautiful symphony of revealed memories, Jenna slowly begins to recognize that a secret is being kept from her and something complex and dangerous is going on. As she realizes that she essentially died in the infamous "accident" and was reborn through her father's controversial discovery. Jenna begins to question biomedical ethics and human nature. Narrator Jenna Lamia excels at evoking the haunting, yet detached way that Jenna begins to connect the events in her life. Combining science fiction, medical mystery, and teen relationships into an excellent package that is satisfying from beginning to end, this is a must-have for all collections" (School Library Journal, 2008).


This book is a good discussion-starter for teens about bioethics and medical technology advances.  It doubles as a dystopian novel, which means it could be paired with other similar dystopian books for a display (dystopian books being a hot topic), such as The Hunger Games and Ender's Game.


Amelia Kay Photography (2011). Black and blue wing [online image] Retrieved from

Miller, J. (2008). The Adoration of Jenna Fox. School Library Journal, 54(8), 62.

Pearson, M. (2008). The adoration of jenna fox. New York: Henry Holt and Company

The Adoration of Jenna Fox. (2008). Kirkus Reviews, 76(23), 21.

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