Little Willow (slayground) wrote,
Little Willow

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

The dictionary says my identity should be all about being separate or distinct, and yet it feel like it is so wrapped up in others.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson is a stunning, fascinating novel. This eye-opening story which openly explores the concept of identity will stay on your mind for a long, long time.

Jenna was left comatose after a tragic accident. One year later, she awakens to a life she can't recall, a body she doesn't recognize, two parents and a grandmother doesn't really know, and a house she can't leave. Her parents want her to stay at home for a while in order to make full recovery and avoid a relapse. Their smiles are cautious, wary; her grandmother's smile is sad, almost bitter.

When Jenna watches old home movies, she can't help but think of herself as two people. (Since she narrates the story in first person, it's easy to follow this train of thought: there's "Jenna," dancing and smiling away on the recordings, and there's "I" or "me" watching them in the present day. Also, there are shaded pages, passages in which Jenna has mental confessions about the past, present, and future.) She knows she was a dancer, a daughter, a student, a friend, and that she was happy, but the most of this knowledge comes from outside sources rather than her own memories. She does not want to rely on what the videos show and what her family tells her - she wants to know herself, herself.

Bits and pieces of her past begin tug at the edges of her mind, but they are not always happy and rarely are they clear. If anything, these blurry scenes and feelings only make her more confused about what happened to her, with her, around her. With the help of others - some forthcoming and some reluctant - things begin to clear up. The edges of her mind are still jagged and raw. Tidbits scraping there only serve to open up old wounds and leave new scars.

Wanting to know who she was, why she is the way she is, and what happened the night of the accident, Jenna pushes her parents' buttons as well as her own physical and mental limits. Her arms, hands, legs and feet, which once were "perfect," don't look, feel, or move the way they used to, her physical changes being as obvious and frustrating to her as her mental blocks. Though she is at first scared and tentative, Jenna keeps trying to get to the bottom of things until she gets through to others and dares to walk on a new path.

Are the details of our lives who we are, or is it owning those details that makes the difference?

This book brings up many questions, not only physiological and psychological but also philosophical:

How much can you really trust your memories - and if you lose them, can you get them back? Can you get yourself back?

People often refer to the five senses, meaning mechanoreception (also called tactition, touch), gustation (taste), vision (sight), audition (sound), and olfaction (smell). But what about the sense of self? Doesn't that rely on other senses as well, like proprioception (body awareness), equilibrioception (balance), nociception (pain), and even thermoception (temperature)? How can and do you use sense memory to (re)construct your sense of self?

Maybe that is all any life is composed of, trivia that eventually adds up to a person, and maybe I just don't have enough of it yet to be a whole one.

I could easily reveal crucial elements of the story, but I'd rather conceal them, as I don't want to spoil or spill a drop for anyone. There's at least one story I want to compare to Adoration, but I am holding my tongue.

For now, I'll say:

This is one of the best stories I've read in months.

For now, I'll sing:

When the time we have now ends
When the big hand goes round again
Can you still feel the butterflies?
Can you still hear the last goodnight?

- from the song For Me This Is Heaven by Jimmy Eat World

After you've read The Adoration of Jenna Fox, check out Pearson's follow-up novel, The Fox Inheritance, and the conclusion, Fox Forever.

Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Read my exclusive interview with Mary E. Pearson from 2008.
Read my exclusive interview with Mary E. Pearson from 2011.
Book Review: The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
Book Review: Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson
He Said, She Said: The Adoration of Jenna Fox and The Fox Inheritance by Mary E. Pearson
Book Review: A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox was featured at readergirlz.
Read the March 2009 issue of readergirlz.
Check out the readergirlz roundtable discussion of The Adoration of Jenna Fox.
Recreate the cover of The Adoration of Jenna Fox.

Tags: books, dance, movies, readergirlz, reviews

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