Author: Jessica Khoury
Publication Date: 09/04/2012
Source: Publisher (ARC)
Pia has grown up in a secret laboratory hidden deep in the Amazon rain forest. She was raised by a team of scientists who have created her to be the start of a new immortal race. But on the night of her seventeenth birthday, Pia discovers a hole in the electric fence that surrounds her sterile home—and sneaks outside the compound for the first time in her life.Pia, perfect Pia, is a geneticist in the making deep in the Amazon. She's never read a book that wasn't science-related, has never listened to music with lyrics. Growing up having known she was the result of a successful experiment, Pia has been moulded perfectly for her future: to head a team to create more immortals like her. But Pia is a teenager, and when she discovers a means of going on the other side of the fence she takes it. So how far does the rabbit hole go? There's more than jungle waiting for her on the other end.
Free in the jungle, Pia meets Eio, a boy from a nearby village. Together, they embark on a race against time to discover the truth about Pia’s origin—a truth with deadly consequences that will change their lives forever.
When I saw this was available at BEA I was a couple shades of giddy. I love books that have to deal with science - mainly with the hope that it'll be pulled off - and knowing that it was set in the rainforest my interest in this book was a no-brainer. The cover design pops in person, with the title being letter-pressed on. I'm hoping the finished copy will be a bit shimmery, because I think it'd make it really stand out on a shelf. It's taken me a while to read it, though, because I was nervous about how the story would pan out. There's a huge mental disparity at times when you set a book up so much before you actually read it.
The descriptions of the rainforest were gorgeous, and it was pleasantly clear that Khoury had done her research when writing this book. When Pia spoke or looked at a flower it was all I could do but not sniff hopefully at the air to see if the scent would float off the page from such beautiful descriptions of the blooms. Mentions of bioluminescence and the inclusion of flora and fauna native to the Amazon rounded out the stunning cast member of setting. The jungle was as much a character in the book as anything, and was perhaps my favorite.
Origin tells the story of Pia and how she deals with being immortal. Taking into account a few things such as her age, her isolation, and living with the fact that she is the only one of her kind, there was a certain measure of uncertainty from her that I expected to be translated as pride and self-awareness. That said, Pia made it difficult to like Pia. She was never someone I could really empathise with. I can't put this fully on Pia, however - though I liked many of the characters (Will, Ami), none of them really stood out enough to say that I could love them. Rather than the character being the voice of the story, it seemed that they were its vessels instead.
Two things stayed with me: one was the inclusion of instashipping between Pia and Eio as well as how Pia views herself, and the second is the role of animals in the book. I liked Pia and I liked Eio, but considering the book plays out over the span of a week, perhaps two at the most, the fact that they are harboring such intense feelings for each other kept me from believing in their interactions. If the book had ended with them perhaps on the beginning of something then everything would have been much more tightly knit for me. There were moments where Pia also defined herself as a female through the confirmation of Eio's thinking of her as a woman - I had to put the book down for a while then before coming back to it. Pia is strong on her own, she doesn't need to be seen through the lens of someone else. I would also like to mention to people considering reading this book that there may be some trigger warnings concerning animals, so please keep that in mind.
Origin is a captivating book that explores the human penchant for never-ending life as well as the consequences our actions can have. Khoury wove together a pretty compelling tale, and though I had some minor issues, she's a writer that I can only see improving with leaps and bounds as she continues.