Author: Jessica Khoury
Published: September 4th, 2012 by Razorbill
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.
Origin is a beautifully told, shocking new way to look at an age-old desire: to live forever, no matter the cost.
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get,” so says Forrest Gump’s mother. It’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes you get chocolates with fruits, nuts, coconuts, and sometimes you get chocolates with no fillings. Just chocolate. I’m not saying just chocolate is bad, I love chocolate. But sometimes, you get a piece of chocolate with something surprising inside, and it’s so delicious you wish you could have more. Origin is that chocolate for me. It’s not just about the story itself, but it’s how Origin made me think about the issues raised throughout the story.
Pia is perfect. She is beautiful, smart, athletic, and she is immortal. Secluded in Little Cam, the research facility where she was created, Pia has never seen the outside world and she has never met anyone her age. All she’s ever wanted is to create more people like her, people who understand what it means to be perfect and what it feels like to know that they will never die. But Pia is curious about the outside world; she wants to know what lies beyond the electric fences of Little Cam. When an opportunity presents itself, Pia takes the chance to explore the mysteries hidden in the jungle. Friendships are formed, secrets are uncovered and Pia discovers that Little Cam may be more than what she thinks it is.
First of all, I love the story. It’s highly imaginative, engaging and different from the books I’ve read before. I love how immortality is explained with science rather than the usual supernatural/magical elements and the plot kept me turning the pages. Of course, the story is not perfect. What story is? So I’m going to explain what I didn’t like first, just to get it out of the way. Insta-love. I actually didn’t notice that it is insta-love until Pia mentioned something along the lines of “I’ve only known him for a week” (note: this is not the actual line from the book, I paraphrased). I think that the characters would be better as friends, at least until they’ve known each other longer, but it didn’t bother me very much and I still enjoyed the story. This book also contains some scenes involving animal abuse, so if you’re sensitive about that issue, I don’t recommend reading Origin. Some of these scenes were disturbing and a little difficult to read, but it didn’t make me stop reading and it is related to the next thing I’m going to talk about.
Like I said before, Origin explores some difficult issues (at least for me) and Khoury highlights the opposite sides of those issues to very opposite ends of the spectrum. The theme ‘Good vs. Evil’ is very prominent in this story, and is conveyed through morality vs. science. Save for a few characters, the good guys are very good while the bad guys are very evil. I find that the lack of a gray zone works for this story because it allowed me, as the reader, to be the gray zone. Told in a first-person narrative, the reader can see both sides of the story through Pia, and along with her, think about what is right and what is wrong. While I know that real scientists don’t act like the scientists in Origin, Little Cam scientists show that they are willing to do whatever it takes to advance their research. On the other hand, the native Ai’oans are good, peaceful and they understand that there must always be balance in the world (and now the Avatar: The Last Airbender theme song is stuck in my head).
Jessica Khoury tells the story of Pia in a captivating way with her beautiful writing. Some scenes are done so well that I got very emotional while reading and I love when a book can do that. The vivid descriptions of the Amazon rainforest as well as Little Cam made the reading experience very enjoyable for me. I have never read a book where the characters lived in the jungle before. Well, I watched Tarzan (LOVE that movie), but I’ve never read the book 😉 .
Origin is a wonderful book with a thought-provoking story, a great set of characters and the world-building is vivid and well-developed. I really love this book and I definitely recommend it. Jessica Khoury is a great author and I will definitely read her next books.
“Because you are young and free and one with the jungle. You are mortal, but instead of clinging to the hope of immortality, you embrace each day, one at a time, and never worry about tomorrow.”
― Jessica Khoury,