This is an Allison review!
When I first picked up my copy of Origin by Jessica Khoury at BEA, I remember being immediately hooked by the premise. The concept of immortality, mixed with romance and a mystery to boot? It pretty much screamed READ ME, especially when you add in the jungle background. But alas, I was a little nervous. Would something that sounded so good only let me down in the end? I’ve had that happen before with books I was really looking forward to. Luckily for me, Origin was not one of those books. In fact, in a few ways, it was more than I expected it to be.
Origin takes you on an emotional rollercoaster as you learn about Little Cam, a secret science compound hidden deep within the Amazon rainforest, and Pia, the sixteen year old girl, who has spent her whole life within the compound being raised by the team of scientists who bred her to be the first of a new immortal race, and the one to carry on their legacy. Everything seems to be going according to plan until the night of her seventeenth birthday when Pia notices a hole in the electric fence surrounding the compound. Unable to resist temptation, she enters the jungle for the first time, and meets Eio, a boy from a local native village. Their connection is almost instantaneous, and as Pia continues to sneak out to meet him, she finds that not everything is as it seems to be within Little Cam. In reality, it could be more dangerous than she ever realized.
What’s so exciting about Origin? Hmm…let’s see…there’s mystery and danger, lies and betrayal, young love and simple romance, all mixed together with the questioning of and the obsession with the concept of immortality. It is all so good and captivating! I must warn you though; there are some parts that are not for the faint at heart. For example, there is several mentions of animal testing which I suppose comes with the territory when dealing with a book about science and immortality. Still, read with caution if you are faint of heart, or an animal lover like myself. I do have to say though that the scenes that made my stomach turn were nicely balanced by scenes that represented the easy and free-flowing relationship between Pia and Eio.
The relationship between Pia and Eio is very sweet. From their first meeting it is as if they are drawn to each other even tough they are from completely different worlds. Pia’s world is filled with distrust and focused entirely on science and their vision of immortality while Eio’s world is a world of spirituality and nature and the relationship and the balance between the two. Meeting Eio forces Pia to question everything she’s ever known but, this questioning may be the very thing that saves her. On the outside the relationship of Pia and Eio may seem very cliché, especially with how quickly the fall for each other but, honestly it works! And their relationship provides a very strong catalyst for all of the other major events in Origin.
One of the major events within Origin is the obsession with the concept of immortality as it brings up several good points and discussions. I loved the references to the concept of the circle of life, the relationship between human and nature, and the discussion/debate on how immortality affects that. It was interesting to witness the lengths one may go to in order to achieve immortality. In fact, there are a few characters that could be seen to border on the lines of evil due to their dedication to Little Cam. It was also interesting to see how all the characters justified their actions. I enjoyed how Jessica Khoury played around with the idea of ones moral compass, and how far a person may be willing to go for another person, even if it might cost them everything. It made for a very exciting read!
Ultimately, the dark obsession with immortality mixed with the innocent romance of Pia and Eio kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end! Origin was truly an emotional mystery ride. Just when you think you have it all figured out … WHAM! … something new hits you that is just as exciting. I was a little sad to leave it all behind especially the Amazon jungle setting which was delicately mixed with both beauty and science-fiction but, I was very pleased (and still surprised) with the way that everything wrapped up. It was nice to actually read a YA sci-fi/fantasy/mystery stand alone even though admittedly part of me was wishing it was going to continue on in another book. I would definitely recommend Origin to anyone looking for a something new and exciting within the dystopian realm. I do not think you will be disappointed!
Disclosure: Advance copy received at BEA
Other Reviews of Origin by Jessica Khoury:
The Book Smugglers — “there’s something compulsively well-paced and guiltily engaging about Origin…”