Origin by Jessica Khoury
Page count: 394 pages (hardcover edition)
Goodreads rating: 3.80
Published on: September 4th, 2012
Buy it via: Amazon|B&N|Book Dep
Rating: 4/5 crystal balls
Summary: 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. 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.
I had heard a lot of mixed things about Origin and at first I was looking forward to this because science fiction is my love but I admit that because of some negative reviews, I had more or less crossed it off my to-read list, at least for the time being. However, I saw it available at my library and I thought, okay, well, if I can fit it in, I’ll give it a try. To my surprise though, after only a couple chapters, I was sold. I couldn't believe I was ever hesitant about giving this a chance. Origin was supposed to be one of those books where I didn't think I would get much out of it, but instead, I found myself swept away by an interesting, and entertaining tale. So what lessons can be learned from this? You know the saying: never judge a book by its cover? Well, never judge a book by other reviews. Also, sometimes the best things come unexpectedly.
One of the most refreshing aspects about Origin is that it is a stand-alone novel in an ocean of YA trilogies. Don’t get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of books in a series, and I prefer to invest my time in them. However, I do love a good one-shot. It’s nice to see an author go against the current trend and wrap up their story within one book. As good as a series can be, sometimes it’s hard to wait for all the answers, and find the patience for all those cliffhangers. Ultimately, there’s something rewarding about a self-contained story.
Pia is our heroine of the book, and I have to say I immediately cared about her and was interested in her journey. Yes, it’s a little contrived that Pia never really questioned life outside her community before the events of Origin, and it was difficult to see Pia go back and forth with who to trust, but I found it worked nevertheless. Watching Pia challenge everything she was ever taught, form her own opinions, and inevitably, become her own person and not be the mindless, perfect, immortal Pia the scientists wanted her to be, was one of the most fulfilling aspects of Origin.
The very first thing that made me fall in love with the story of Origin was the setting. It really is like a complete character on its own, and it created an atmosphere that just pulls you right in and in many ways breathes life into the story. Khoury did an incredible job of making the reader feel like they were right there in the rainforest. While reading, I honestly felt like I could reach out and touch the canopy of the trees, and see the bright colors. It was like I could feel the warm air enveloping around me, and hear the sounds of the animals. The setting also served as a great metaphor for the risk that surrounds Pia’s life unbeknownst to her. The rainforest is very bright and beautiful but it’s also full of danger and cut off from outside life. If you strip away the beauty, you are trapped in an extremely hostile environment. With Pia, once the lies were stripped away, the place she always knew as her home, turned into a nightmare.
Origin has one of the strongest mysteries I've ever read. It starts off just right, piquing your interest, and then chapter by chapter, the intrigue builds to a point so deliciously uncomfortable, it’s impossible to want to put it down. It’s frustrating, but in a good, ‘ahhhhh, I-want-to-know-what-is-happening-right-now-this-is-exciting’ kind of way. I have to say that part of what makes a mystery good and interesting is the build up, but if the climax is disappointing, then the whole thing for the most part is just going to fall flat in the end. I can’t say Origin goes in a particularly surprising direction. I mean it’s obvious there’s something sinister going on. However, it’s about the way the specific details come together, and the way Khoury ties it all together is downright thrilling and satisfying. There’s action around every corner, and all questions are answered.
I've mentioned this in an earlier review, but I prefer books that challenge me, that make me question my beliefs, and evoke my emotions.
Origin will ask you some tough questions. Many people would jump at the chance to live forever. What would you do to achieve immortality? How far would you go to ensure your survival or your children’s survival and their children? Do the ends justify the means? Is it really worth being immortal if you lose your humanity in the process? These are all questions you will be asking yourself by the end of the book.
The one aspect of Origin that unfortunately didn't really work for me was the love story, and love interest Eio. I found that to be disappointing because the potential for a really great love story was there. The problem wasn't that it was offensive, or insta-love, but it felt more generic than genuine. Nothing about Eio felt particularly real or fleshed out. While their relationship was innocent and sweet, I felt like his character served as nothing more than a plot point for Pia to keep sneaking out, and then in turn questioning the world around her. This is not to say that I feel this weighed down the book. I did find some enjoyment from his character and their scenes, but overall, I couldn't say I was invested either.
Ultimately, Khoury has written a terrific debut novel and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. Defiantly pick up Origin if you want a compelling sci-fi mystery with a setting that will transport you into right into the tropical rainforest.