“Origin” by Jessica Khoury

I was lucky to read an ARC of “Origin” but am unable to recommend this book.

Pia, a generically beautiful and “perfect” immortal, has been raised in a science lab hidden in the Amazon jungle. She hopes to one day create her own race of immortal beings and have lifetime-long companions. When a hole in her electric fence appears, Pia enters the jungle for the first time and meets Eio, a beautiful indigenous teen who is the first person Pia has met who is her own age. While “Origin” has elements that flirt with dystopia, it’s really a teen romance.

First time author, Jessica Khoury, packs some interesting ideas and good description here but I was dismayed by the flatness of her characters and unfortunate overtones of the “indigenous” people. How has Pia reached her 17th birthday without ever questioning her existence or her relationship to the outside world? Pia is surprisingly incurious and unintellectual for someone raised by with a cadre of brilliant scientists. Her passivity and naivety keeps the novel from delving deeply into some thought-provoking questions. Eio and his tribe are incredibly problematic as well. Not only is he a shirtless half-white/ half-native (more palatable than an all-native character?) teen but he is the only person Pia can talk to in the outside world. Khoury’s reliance on stereotypical evil-corporate-scientists vs. moral-native-savages does her novel significant harm. This cultural insensitivity will keep “Origin” off my shelves.

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