BOOK REVIEW: Origin by Jessica Khoury
Pia is a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in a secret laboratory compound in the Amazon rainforest. She’s never been outside the electrified fence that surrounds her home; she was born there, but she knows she won’t die there. Why? Because Pia is immortal. She is immune to disease, and there is no substance on earth sharp enough to pierce her skin. Once she reaches the age of 20, she’ll stop aging completely and will live forever. To those around her, Pia is perfect, the culmination of almost a century of hard work and intricate science. They think they know everything about Pia, but they are wrong. Secretly, Pia yearns to be free.
Reading Origin, it’s very easy to feel sorry for Pia. Yes, she is the world’s first immortal and she is amazing in many ways. But her loneliness is palpable. She knows that she’ll outlive everyone around her. What’s more, Pia is basically a science experiment. She doesn’t have much of a connection to either of her parents (her mother is cold and her father is distant), and there is no one her age inside the compound. Most of the people there don’t think of Pia as a person; they see her as an achievement. It’s no wonder Pia wants to know if there is more out there than this sad life, especially considering how much they refuse to tell her about the outside world.
From the beginning, Khoury drops hints about the dark past of Pia’s lab and an incident referred to as “The Accident” in the book. It’s clear that Pia isn’t aware of what’s been happening, and because she’s trusting, Pia doesn’t ask too many questions. There’s a menace that surrounds the book, and it becomes darker as the novel progresses. The end revelation, while unrealistic, certainly provides shock value and doesn’t disappoint.
This being a YA novel, there is a love interest in Origin: a local boy named Eio, who Pia meets when she manages to sneak out of her laboratory compound through a hole in the fence. YA love stories can be overwrought and angst-ridden, but Khoury actually did incredibly well with Pia and Eio. It’s understandable why Pia is intrigued by him; after all, he’s the first boy her own age that she’s met, and what’s more, he’s handsome. You really get to see their friendship, and then their relationship, develop, and it’s very sweet.
Origin is refreshing in many ways, but one of its most unique aspects is that it’s a standalone novel. As far as we can tell, there aren’t any sequels planned, and Khoury wraps the story up nicely at the end. It’s great for when you just want a book you can read, start to finish, without having to worry about when the sequel is going to come out or wait to find out what happened. If you’re looking for a smart, interesting novel with really well-developed characters and can enjoy a book even if parts of it are unrealistic, then Origin is absolutely a great book to pick up.
What would you do in Pia's shoes?