Call me a skeptic. Young adult, pseudo-science fiction, 22-year-old author, first novel (OK, so I like first novels) – Jessica Khoury’s Origin was not shaping up to be my cup of tea. However, toss in that the author is from Toccoa, Ga. – my hometown – and I’m a little more engaged. Add that two readers I respect suggest it is better than Hunger Games (one being my mom) and despite the fact that I haven’t actually read the Hunger Games (see list of why not to read above), I’ll be glad to give it a fair shot.
Fair shot I gave, and boy did Jessica Khoury deliver!
Origin is set deep in the Amazon Rainforest on a compound where scientists have been working for more than a century to create an immortal race. They’ve succeeded in creating the first one – Pia – who knows that she is special, perfect. But because of who she is, she is also protected. Never allowed to venture from the compound (what is Amazon, San Francisco, a city?), Pia is curious about what is beyond. And when she discovers a hole in the fence on the night of her seventeenth birthday, she learns that what is there is so much more than she had expected or dared to hope for, including a boy, Eio.
Pia must then make a decision: stay where she is and help create a race where she will no longer feel alone or turn her back completely on everything and everyone she has ever known.
Origin is exceptionally written, and Khoury demonstrates wisdom beyond her years as her character grapples with relationships, the value of life, and what truly constitutes love. This is apart from the fact that she built such a plot that 40 pages from the end, I had to put the book aside because my heart was racing so, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to sleep.
But Origin was waiting for me the next morning, and I eagerly devoured the end. Origin is a page turner that will also make you stop, think and contemplate your own values. From the first chapter on, its imagery and metaphors make it rich for discussion.
Bravo, Jessica! Well done! You’ve got a well-crafted work, and your hometown is very proud!
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