I do approve of science fiction for girls - too much fiction aimed at young women is vapid and self-fulfilling. And I habitually enjoy post-apocalypti...moreI do approve of science fiction for girls - too much fiction aimed at young women is vapid and self-fulfilling. And I habitually enjoy post-apocalyptic worlds. Also, nothing wrong with some ultra-violence. Plus, it's Suzanne Collins, my go-to gal in the children's section - I have yet to meet a kid (boy OR girl) who didn't thank me for introducing them to Gregor.
So why am I not jumping up and down about The Hunger Games?
1. If I think young adult fiction has a mission, and sometimes I think it does, I think it should be to cause young people to question things that have been presented to them - truths (Not the End of the World by Geraldine McCaughrean), values (Uglies), government (Little Brother), commerce (So Yesterday). Ok, yeah granted, books can be just fun too. But speculative fiction particularly has this opportunity - because the context of the story is so different, the elements of the book's world that are the same as ours stand out in higher relief.
To make a long sentence short, I don't think The Hunger Games takes that opportunity. There's no one element that is terribly similar to our world. Even the 'reality show' that is The Hunger Games is so dissimilar to our reality shows - watching it is mandatory - that it's hard to tell what, if any, point Ms. Collins had in mind.
2. I found the insertion of a little romance to be tedious. It felt like it was jammed in there to make the book more palatable to the teen girls. I'd like to think that not all teenage girls NEED romance for a book to be relevant to their interests.
I thought when the romance became a major part of the Uglies series, that's where it bogged down. God knows if the next Hunger Games books are all about Katniss choosing between Baker Boy and Hunter Guy, I will be disappointed.
3. I thought the very best parts of the book were the chapters that described Katniss's home town and the capital city. Suzanne Collins does wonderful detail, as we know from Gregor, and her alternate worlds are richly and roundly imagined.
I am hoping that Katniss takes a tour of all the districts of her world in the next two books, and leaves both those boys behind.(less)
You: Cool kid, maybe 14 or older (there's plenty of swearing), sporting visual evidence of interest in music....moreLet's roleplay a booktalk for this book:
You: Cool kid, maybe 14 or older (there's plenty of swearing), sporting visual evidence of interest in music. Franz Ferdinand pin, floppy hair, vintage Siouxie and the Banshees t-shirt. Something like that. You may be a girl, but you may be a boy too - even though the protagonist is a girl - and it is a VERY fizzy book - I believe that boy music fans will like it too. Me: Librarian, pink hair, one large but tasteful visible tattoo.
Commence: Me: Come with me I have something for you. You: Er! Me: No seriously you have to have this. You will like it. It is funny. You: [Panic!:]
Interesting. The adoration of Jenna Fox is many things. It is:
* a young adult speculative fiction novel for girls who don't like science fiction
# a c...moreInteresting. The adoration of Jenna Fox is many things. It is:
* a young adult speculative fiction novel for girls who don't like science fiction
# a coming-of-age novel for people who eschew the touchy-feely (me!)
# a medical thriller, fully as suspenseful as early Robin Cook
# a meditation on choices nearly as profound as Walden, which it frequently quotes
And I think it is, very subtly, a pro-life statement.
Now, I, like the reviewers at SLJ, Publishers Weekly, The Horn Book, etc., and my colleague Other Paula, who recommended it to me, enjoyed this book. I liked Jenna, who has awoken from a coma with no memory, and who struggles to assimilate information that will help her interpret her world and make sense of her often conflicting impressions. I enjoyed watching her evaluate her former life, explore her new life, and forge a new identity from the best pieces of both. The near-future world that Pearson has invented, full of genetically engineered species and antibiotic-resistant bacteria and oxygenated transplant gel loaded with neurochips, is both believable and intriguing. And I thought that "waking from a coma" was a serviceable metaphor for teenagers just beginning to realize that they are not merely extensions of (or reactions against) their parents, and that they can choose what kind of person to be.
But although this book is a suspenseful, thrilling read, I went through it slowly, because there's a lot going on in it beyond the mystery of Jenna's past. Specifically, the frequent ethics discussions merit very close attention.
In Jenna's world, "Science" (it almost wears a capital S in this book) is responsible for the disappearance of native species and an epidemic that killed a quarter of the world's population. In response, the federal government has enacted laws and created an ethics board that controls access to and application of advanced medical treatments. To ensure equitable access, a point system is in place, under which every person is assigned 100 points. Medical procedures use up those points: physicians decide whether a person 'needs', say, biofeedback software for their prosthetic limbs, or a kidney, or a heart transplant, based on how many points they have left.
Jenna is the daughter of a biotechnology billionaire, and she has recovered from a truly devastating car accident. I don't think I'm giving away too much of the plot when I say that Jenna has exceeded her points.
This fact, along with various revelations pertaining to what was lost and what recovered from Jenna's body after the crash, as well as a quadruple amputee whom she meets at school, and the fate of her best friends from before the accident, leads Jenna to question her right - and desire - to be alive.
I was skating right along with Jenna, feeling her dilemmas, rejoicing in her rebellions, all the way up to the book's ending, an artificial-feeling happy coda set two hundred and forty years later. 240 years is a long time: long enough, presumably, for a character to gain complete perspective. And 240 years later, Jenna is content with her choices, and the world's society backs her up. She muses on faith and science, and thinks that they are two sides of the same coin. At this point, I thought to myself, "'Faith'? Was this book about faith?" Earlier in the book, Jenna wondered if she had a soul, and her grandmother is Catholic... and then I realized that Jenna's post-coma memories include events that happened before she could talk: a near-drowning as a toddler, her baptism, and... being in her mother's womb. This representation of a fetus's perceptions and feelings is extremely provocative and, amid Pearson's well-written examinations of the meaning and value of human life, I think it's unnecessary. It made me go back and re-examine all of the science and ethics in the book.
I feel sure that Mary Pearson did not write The Adoration of Jenna Fox as Christian or pro-life propaganda (although, if that title isn't Jesus-y enough for you, I'll write the sequel, and call it Ecce Jenna).
Until that ending, I would even say that her presentation of the ethical issues faced by the characters is basically balanced - though that point system thing rather reeks of pro-life rhetoric. If the book had been left open-ended, I would recommend it without reservation. It could be used in many terrific science-class discussion topics (some of which are listed in the discussion guide, some, not). Teen literature should challenge convictions, should poke holes in the status quo.
But resolving Jenna's ethical conflicts - presenting her choice as the one right choice - damages the credibility of the book. Sure, "it's just fiction," but I'd like to give this book more credit than that. You quote Walden that much, you kind of better be prepared to defend your choices.
Ok yes I really liked it - girl hero with superpowers, nicely imagined world, good strong plot - but not as much as other readers seem to have. I have...moreOk yes I really liked it - girl hero with superpowers, nicely imagined world, good strong plot - but not as much as other readers seem to have. I have not much patience with the mushy stuff, and our Katsa gets trapped in the eyes of her boy Po about ten times too often for me. I also would like to see more complexity, a little double-crossing. This is YA after all, we can cope with some twists and turns.(less)