The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Mary E. Pearson
Henry Holt and Company
As a librarian, I often have to read books because I'm not sure whether or not they'll be appropriate for the level of students I serve - whether because of reading level, content or interest. Sometimes I come across a book that I can't put down but I know my kids won't be interested in. Sometimes I read books that I find completely annoying, but as I read I can tick off the students who will go completely gaga over the story.
The Adoration of Jenna Fox is a bit of a mystery to me though, Intriguing story, pretty good plot line, acceptable ending, but, in my professional opinion, very blah. It's the story of a girl named Jenna who wakes from a coma after a terrible car accident that took place over a year ago. She can hardly remember her life before the coma, but things come back to her in flashes. Her parents are loving and fiercly protective, but her grandmother is distant - Jenna can sense that grandma just doesn't like her. As the story unfolds, you find out just how much Jenna's parents adore her, and what lengths her dedicated mother and scientist father are willing to go to keep her safe and alive. Her parents have provided her with stalker-esque (can your parents stalk you?) videos for each year of her life in the hopes that it will help her remember. However, as she watches the videos, she realizes that things don't quite add up. First of all, a scar on her chin is missing, then she realizes that she's a few inches shorter than she was before the accident. As you can imagine, the teenager in Jenna starts to rebel and all hell breaks loose.
The premise of the book really is excellent - how much of a person must remain in order for it to be the same person. Is a soldier who loses his/her arms and legs in battle still a whole person? What if all that could be saved of a person is half their brain? A third of their brain? Would they still be the same person? The problem I have with the book is that, well, I can't explain it. It was just blah. Parts of the plot that were supposed to be mysterious ended up being confusing and/or weird, and the ending - you all know how I feel about weak endings. The end annoyed me. Talk about rainbows and unicorns. Sheesh.
So here's my dillema - and let's be honest, it's not really a dillema. A dilemma would be solving the health care crisis or the Middle Eastern Conflict. This is more of a "whiney moment". I'm not sure my students will like the book. According to the reviews students have loved this book for years - heck the second book in the series The Fox Inheritance just came out (don't get me started on that one. It is NOT on my reading list. Oi.), but no students names popped into my head as I was reading it, and I don't look forward to book talking it (though, there are lots of books that I can sell like candy to kids that I'm not a fan of. 'Tis one of my talents). To purchase or not to purchase, that is the question.
I wouldn't recommend this book to students younger than 7th grade, but I think the majority of middle school students can handle it. If you're looking for a quick read that is somewhat thought provoking, I'd recommend it, but don't expect literary grandeur.