“Today I am seventeen years old. Seventeen birthdays down. An eternity of them to go.”
In an era where the Teen genre is read by people of all ages and with the latest theme that of apocalyptic survival, Origin by Jessica Khoury is a fresh change that takes presents the modern day love tale with a scientific twist.
Origin is the story of Pia, a genetically engineered girl who is not only immortal, but who is being scientifically trained and tested to continue the creation and evolution of her very own kind. Through decades of research and tests, Pia has become the first immortal born and raised in the complex named “Little Cam” which is hidden away in the depths of the Amazon rain forest. Pia lives within the structure created by the scientists that raised her and act as her family, until the day her curiosity gets the better of her and she finds herself stumbling (quite literally) into the path of native teenage boy named Eio. What follows is a fast fall into love, along with questions and revelations that shatter the only life she has ever known.
The first welcome surprise of Origin is the setting and theme. When so many Teen novelists are centered on apocalyptic scenarios and the struggle and violence that usually ensues, Origin takes place in the modern day world (or so it seems to be implied) and uses science as the driving force of friction throughout the novel. The struggles that the characters face are not those of death, starvation or violence (though a few of those are certainly present throughout the book), but are ones of internal conflict, contradictory emotions and coming to terms with a world unknown. I’m a huge fan of books such as The Hunger Games, the Divergent series and James Dashner’s Maze Runner, but it was a breath of fresh air to read something that occurs within the realism of the world we live in day to day. With science at the forefront of so many discoveries, some provoking heated moral discussions, it provides a perfect setting to drive the very question of what it means to be human.
Another high point is how Khoury makes the setting of the jungle come alive. I was impressed when I first read on the back that the story took place in the Amazon jungle, but became slightly weary afterwards. I appreciate any story that takes place in the rain forest, but only if it’s done right. I’ve read a few books where the setting of a jungle has not been done justice, but thankfully Khoury describes it in such a way that you can envision the plant life and the sound of rain storms that Pia experiences. Any book that can draw me that deep into the scenery gets a head nod from me.
As much as I loved certain aspects of the books, there were a few things that were a bit of a letdown in my opinion. As unique as some of the characters were, I found it confusing at points in separating other background characters. I know Khoury was trying to portray that Pia’s family was an extended one, with numerous scientists having a hand in raising her, and while I could distinguish the more instrumental figures there were other scientists that just bled into the background and I could never really remember who they were and what part (if any) they played in influencing Pia. Maybe that added into my confusion later in the book when the reality of the scientists’ work came to light. Though the major points of this plot twist are clear, there were still aspects of it that were slightly blurry to me. I won’t discuss it any further here as I don’t want to risk giving anything major away, and it could have merely been me; I read through the book quite quickly. The other thing that grated on my nerves a bit was Pia and Eio’s love story. Now, don’t get me wrong, every teen book needs a love story. It’s a driving factor of the Teen genre. However, how fast Pia falls for Eio is somewhat hard to swallow. I know we have all likely experienced that sudden chemical attraction to someone, to be stuck on thinking about that individual for a few days, but Pia begins to discard everything she knows the moment she meets Eio. Again, I know the sudden life-altering meeting with someone is a key element of the Teen genre, but I’m finding myself enjoying books more and more that have a love story that forms gradually. Khoury makes up for it slightly later on when Pia faces the confliction her emotions are creating, so it smoothed the edge slightly for me.
Overall, I found Origin to be a fresh face for the typical love story that is so common in the Teen genre. If you’re looking for something a little different and with a more modern (maybe even nerdy?) twist, Origins might just be the book you’re looking for.
Devon – athousandbooklife