A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi book includes some kissing between teens and violence that's mostly mentioned in flashback, including an epidemic and natural disaster that kills scores of people and a car accident that kills teens and lands one in a coma. One male student almost attacks the heroine, but help arrives on time.
What's the story?
When Jenna Fox wakes up from an 18-month coma, she remembers nothing, and she's in rural California in a broken-down house with her mother and grandmother instead of her home in Boston. All she has is every highlight of her old life on disc -- her life as the perfect daughter that her parents adored so much that deals were made to make sure they wouldn't lose her, even after an accident she wasn't supposed to survive. But once Jenna starts to unravel her parents' secrets, can she live with the decision they've made?
Is it any good?
This sci-fi story definitely gets you thinking. Not only about what kinds of ethical decisions humans will have to deal with in the future (way beyond cloning), but also about what the cost is of not letting go when it's time, both in the regular "empty nest" parent sense and the grieving sense. And all of that is wrapped in a taut mystery that Jenna dramatically unravels. Because of what Jenna's father does for a living, readers will be clued into the big secret way before Jenna is, but luckily there are more revelations in store.
Some of the characters in Jenna's new life seem too conveniently placed -- like her friend Allys with artificial limbs who volunteers for the medical ethics board, as well as both a love interest and a neighbor who have big secrets. But within Jenna's family, the tension feels real, and her grandmother is a great mediator between the strict order her parents try to maintain and the fierce need for independence of any 17-year-old. If the author followed today's trends, there would be hundreds more pages dedicated to Jenna's budding romance and her bickering with her mom. So it's refreshing that Pearson sticks to the heart of her story and leaves the rest to readers, whose imaginations will definitely still be reeling for days afterward.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Jenna's parents. Do you think they made the right decision, even if it was against the law? What about Allys' parents? Teens, what would you do if you found out your parents were keeping such big secrets from you? Also, why do you think Lily told Jenna some of the things her parents tried to keep from her? Also, on a deeper level, do you think Jenna has a soul?