Review: Origin by Jessica Khoury (@jkbibliophile @PenguinTeen)

I was super excited when I won a contest hosted on Jessica Khoury’s blog to win an advance copy of her debut novel, Origin. Unfortunately, I was a dork and wasn’t able to actually read it before it was released, but I finally managed to squeeze it in over the weekend, and I’m glad I did!

The Plot (from Goodreads)

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.

My Thoughts

Origin was a refreshingly new take on the YA immortality archetype. For one thing, the girl was the immortal one (for some reason, it always feels like it’s the other way around). And for another, there was nothing supernatural about it (unless you consider the flower that is the basis of the immortality compound to be supernatural…which I don’t). It’s all science. Although the book doesn’t have a big sci-fi feel; it feels more like a mystery/adventure/romance.

Pia was a great protagonist. The immortality and her extremely sheltered childhood, in addition to her super-fast reflexes and superhuman stamina, could have made her hard to relate to, but her emotions felt real and tangible. I really understood her inner struggle between wanting to stay in the scientific environment in which she was raised and wanting to run into the unknown of the jungle with Eio. Her relationship with Eio is a bit insta-lovey, and I wasn’t sure if I’d go for it, but given her cloistered upbringing, I think it was actually realistic. She’s never been around another kid her age before, much less an attractive boy who’s showing her all manner of new things. Of course she falls hard and fast.

As for the other characters, I liked how varied they were, and that there was no “evil for the sake of evil” bad guy. Even the villains had motivations that they felt were noble, and I found that fascinating. Yes, they do some things that I found terrible, but they thought they were doing the right thing. Stories are always more interesting when that happens. And I loved the “good” characters, particularly Harriet and Antonio. They were both heavily flawed and made some huge mistakes, but I really enjoyed how they were developed.

From about the middle of the book on, I couldn’t put it down. The pacing was great and kept me riveted all the way through to the end (which, by the way, is the end for real, as Origin is a standalone novel). And while I’ve read enough sci-fi in my life to have been able to predict the twists at the end, I still really enjoyed watching them unfold. The jungle setting was a great change of pace (I don’t think I’ve read a book set in the rainforest since Michael Crichton’s Congo, which I read in the early ’90s), and her descriptions of the plants and wildlife were lush and vivid.

The only complaint I have about the book is that the beginning was a little slow. While I was engrossed from the middle on, I wasn’t totally into it from the beginning. I was interested, and I found it enjoyable, but it wasn’t really a can’t-stop-reading book for the first several chapters.

But overall, I think Origin is an exciting, original book with great characters and a fabulous setting. The engaging plot kept me intrigued right up through the breathtaking, bittersweet ending. I’d recommend you check it out!

Content guide: Contains a couple instances of mild language, disturbing animal experimentation, some violence.

Top Ten Tuesday (September 18) – Bookish People I Want to Meet

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by the people over at The Broke and the Bookish! After last week’s Super Heavy topic (which, granted, didn’t have to be Super Heavy, but it was for me), I’m glad this week’s is a bit lighter.

On a related note, I realized this week that I’ve been blogging almost six months now! This calls for some sort of celebration, or at least a dessert item of some kind. Preferably of the tiramisu variety.

And in that short/long time (depending on your perspective), I’ve met some truly amazing people. So many, actually, that I had a hard time with this week’s topic, simply because I’ve already met so many of the amazing bookish people who would have been on this list six months ago. They include Myra McEntire, C.J. Redwine, Amy Plum, Sharon Cameron, Kat Zhang, Ruta Sepetys (seriously people, Nashville rocks so hard), and a whole bunch of fabulous Tennessee bloggers. If you ever have a chance to meet any of these ladies (even if you haven’t read their books yet — which, confession time, I haven’t read all of them yet), I’d highly recommend it.

Some of these I stand a decent chance of encountering someday. Others fall solidly in the “one day if all my dreams come true and are sprinkled in fairy dust” category. You can decide for yourself which is which.

Oh, and disclaimer: I haven’t read all of these authors’ books yet either. Some of them are on here because while I’ve heard their books are great, I know they are pretty awesome from following them on Twitter. (Although some of them aren’t on Twitter, and are on here entirely because of their books). And of course, not all of them are authors at all.  This disclaimer is getting confusing. I should stop.

These are numbered so I can keep track of how many I have, but are in no particular order.

Top Ten Bookish People I Want to Meet

1. J.K. Rowling – You know she’s got to be on everyone’s list, because who wouldn’t want to meet the woman who created Harry Potter?

In related news, I dreamed last night that I was Harry, and Voldemort had agreed to have a nice little diplomatic chat with me, but halfway through our chat he figured out the twist ending. Guys, it is never good when the bad guy figures out the twist ending. I was really glad to wake up.

2. Suzanne Collins – In the same vein, I want to meet the woman who created The Hunger Games and singlehandedly brought about this crazy dystopian wave that we’re still surfing. And I would also like to thank her for creating Peeta, who may be my favorite YA male character ever. Or at least one of my top 3.

3. Lauren Oliver – She wrote Before I Fall and the Delirium series, and her writing is just so pretty. I just want to wallow in it.

4. Robin Hobb – No big deal, only the author of my favorite fantasy series of all time. I compare all other fantasy (and books in general, really) to this series, and while some are really, really good, her books stand superior.

A week or so ago, I opened my mailbox to find an autographed copy of the first book in the series, courtesy of Sarah, who had picked one up for me at Dragon*Con. I may have screeched right there at the mailbox.

5. Jessica Khoury – Her debut, Origin, just came out and I haven’t read it yet. I have an ARC (that I won in one of her contests, actually), sitting on my shelves begging to be read, but my life lately has not been conducive to reading. Hopefully I will remedy this soon. But she runs the best, most creative contests ever, PLUS she loves Robin Hobb’s books, and therefore I have decided we must meet someday.

6. Jodi Meadows – Her critique partners are Myra McEntire and C.J. Redwine. Considering how much I adore their books, I figure that loving Jodi’s books is pretty much a guarantee. And although I regret to admit that I’ve had Incarnate sitting unread on my shelf for months now (although sometimes I just have to gaze at the pretty cover), I know when I finally do sit down to read it, I’ll be in for a treat. Plus, I’m rather addicted to Jodi’s blog. And she is the one who introduced me to Lindsey Stirling videos. So I think we’d get along.

7. Veronica Roth – While Divergent was not my favorite book ever (although Insurgent was better), I love Veronica’s blog. I’ve spent so much time browsing her archives. She is responsible for a large percentage of my knowledge of the publishing industry (I’m not sure how vast that knowledge is — probably not very — but what there is, she planted). I would love to hear her speak and pick her brain.

8. Tahereh Mafi – Another author whose books I haven’t read yet (confession: I’m waiting until I can get them with the new cover, because I’m not a fan of the original Shatter Me cover), but her Twitter makes me laugh more than any other author. And anyone who can make me laugh that much is someone I want to meet.

9. Lori at Pure Imagination – She’s the only one of the Tennessee bloggers I regularly communicate with that I haven’t met yet. (Which is funny, because she was actually the first Tennessee blogger I started talking to when I started blogging). Thus far our interaction has consisted entirely of Twitter and blog comments. This needs to be remedied.

10. Sarah at Breaking the Binding – Sometimes you “meet” a person (and I put “meet” in quotes because as of yet, we have not actually met) and you just have to shake your fist at the sky and say “WHY WERE WE NOT RAISED TOGETHER FROM INFANCY?” And such is the case with Sarah. It is sad that we live in two different states, because if we were in the same town, I’m pretty sure great things would happen. Based on the sheer volume of cyber-communication that currently passes between us on a daily basis (a large percentage of which is geeky Tumblr links), I think we’d have no shortage of things to discuss.

Honorable Mentions (since limiting it to 10 is just…no):

Jennifer Nielsen, Rae Carson, Victoria Schwab, James Dashner, Julie Kagawa, Shannon Messenger