Jenny (Reading Envy)'s Reviews > The Testament of Jessie Lamb

The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers
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's review
Jul 26, 2011

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bookshelves: read2011, post-apocalypse-and-dystopia, booker-winners-and-listed
Read on August 25, 2011

When I saw the Booker Longlist for 2011, I was most excited about this book. It took a while to track it down since not many libraries in the states had purchased it yet!

I love a good dystopian novel, but I think this one is a little less than good. The premise is interesting - every human has been infected with MDS, a disease which lies dormant in the body until a woman becomes pregnant, and she dies soon after. Humanity is having to face the idea of becoming extinct, and it doesn't take long for one solution to present itself - 15-16 year olds who sacrifice their lives to become Sleeping Beauties, basically zombie-incubators for embryos that are still experimental within the time of the narration. (Zombies because the women still end up dying from the disease, not *actual* zombies).

The entire novel is somewhat of a journal written by Jessie Lamb, interspersed with accounts of her being held hostage in a room.

The story is compelling. The Handmaid's Tale meets Never Let Me Go meets, I don't know, Uglies? It does have an underlying YA feel to it, because of the emphasis on the teenage characters and their continuing interpersonal dramas, while the adults fade into the background. The way the parents are characterized is confusing, as the mother in particular seems unresponsive and untraumatized by events.

My biggest issue with the novel is how preachy it is. In the beginning you find 15 year olds waxing eloquently about how the earth will thrive after humans have died off, and mourning the devastation and pollution, which of course is unrealistic, and of course is just used for the author to make us understand how Truly Terrible this disease is. Just not necessary! A little more subtlety would have been greatly appreciated.

It happens again when the Sleeping Beauties come up, the comparison that the author draws between these young women entering into this arrangement knowing they will die and (mostly) men who do the same in entering a war. It is her argument, I'm not going to weigh in on it, but was another moment where I was taken completely out of the story because of how heavy-handed it was.
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