Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review: ORIGIN by Jessica Khoury

Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.

Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
Woo! Amazon! Secrets! Forbidden love! Evil scientists! Yeah!

Those were my thoughts going into this book. I mean, everybody and his second cousin is talking about this book. It's one of those Big Deal books. Oh, and I follow the author on Twitter, and she's super-sweet, and her hair is so pretty it's distracting. Clearly, this book is going to be amazing, right?!

I'm sorry to say that amazing author does not always equal amazing book. Origin was by no means horrible (look at all the people that LOVE this book), but it just wasn't my cup of tea.

First of all, I must say that I love the name Pia. Pia! It's such a happy name, and also brings to mind the character on The Donut Man. The name Pia is also said to mean several different things in the story, which is always nice. I love a name with a good backstory. Pia herself wasn't my favorite person. I didn't dislike her, but I also didn't feel much of anything for her. I don't know why.

She's an odd little thing, this Pia-girl. She's been sheltered from the world by her "Uncles" and "Aunts" (the scientists) and spoonfed scientific knowledge. She's incredibly bright but very trusting. After all, who doesn't want to believe the very people who created you? Surely, they must be good! Her naivety is understandable, except... She's been raised from birth to have a scientist's calculating mind. She's perfect in looks, in body, and in intelligence. One would think she would have a crackerjack mind for ferreting out the truth.

I know being raised in her glass box shaped Pia's assumptions and that one of those assumptions is that Uncle Paolo and the rest are right and looking out for her own good, but I found her hesitancy to question those assumed truths so very frustrating! Scientists are supposed to question EVERYTHING! And yet it seems to take forever for Pia to make any progress.

Eio in girl form
Opposite of Pia is Eio, the sweet, blue-eyed village boy. While she is the one who thinks and reasons, he is the one who feeeeeeels and does. Sure, he's an outsider like her, thanks to his mixed parentage, but he's also the fiery-tempered, tree-hugging native who wants her to paint with all the colors of the wind. Okay, maybe not the last part, but this whole pairing feels so familiar. At least we can give Ms. Khoury props for making the female the rational, scientific one. Well, if a girl can be labelled rational after falling into mega-insta-love with a boy after three freaking days.

I'm sure there's more, but as I try to write this review a few weeks after reading Origin, I'm shocked at how quickly the story has faded from my mind. Despite the interesting premise, the story felt rather rote. Rote and very YA lite, actually. For instance, there's a big to-do about Pia learning the catalyst for the elysia potion. It's supposed to be just too awful for her to handle. The problem is I read books like I Hunt Killers, so after all that build-up, the reveal just fell flat. Rationally, I knew that the revealed details were awful. The delivery just lacked punch.

However, I will say that the Wickham tests really shone for me. I understood how they fit in, I understood how Pia was supposed to see them, and I saw how we were supposed to see them, and it all happened! Yay! Oh, and the details of everyone's final Wickham tests? Not bad at all. I thoroughly despised "Uncle" Paolo by the end. (Also, there's this really cool scene with an anaconda that I highly recommend you read.)

So... yeah. Nice premise, predictable story, annoying characters. Meh. Thankfully, you're free to make up your own mind, and you very well may disagree with me. That's okay! I just won't be picking up this book any time soon.

Points Added For: A heart-pounding anaconda scene, Uncle Paolo's Wickham test, an interesting premise.

Points Subtracted For: One-dimensional supporting characters, insta-love, the whole native-and-the-white-person setup, no big shockers (I anticipated pretty much everything).

Good For Fans Of: Avatar, insta-love, stories set in the jungle.

Notes For Parents: Violence, language (not bad in the beginning, heavier in the end), kissing, philosophical questions regarding morality, murder.

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