“The Jungle hides a girl who cannot die.”

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If you’re a fan of dystopian tales, Jessica Khoury’s Origin is the book for you.

“You are immortal, Pia, and you are perfect.” This is what sixteen-year-old Pia has heard every day of her life.  

Pia is immortal, with impenetrable skin, amplified physical skills, and superior mental strength. She is the first and only of her kind, created by a group of scientists known as the Immortis team. The scientists and Pia reside in a high security, fenced in place called Little Cam that lies within the Amazon jungle. She is the youngest member of the compound and all her life Pia has only known science and her definitive goal of joining the Immortis team. The sole focus of the Immortis team is to use a compound dubbed “Immortis,” made from mixing the nectar of the rare elysia flower (deadly to any who ingest it) with a mysterious catalyst flower (making it safe to inject into humans) to create more “perfect” immortals like Pia. Ultimately, the Immortis team hopes to someday create enough immortals to rule the world and make up the perfect human race. Unfortunately, it takes 5 generations of injecting offspring with the Immortis serum to create an immortal. Pia has never questioned her way of life, wanting to create an immortal boy so as to not be alone forever, watching every mortal around her die.

But then, on her seventeenth birthday, Pia does the unthinkable—she discovers an opening at the bottom of the border fence and crawls underneath it, into the unknown territory of the jungle. Skittish in this unknown expanse, Pia literally smacks into a handsome young man with bronze skin, jet black hair, and the purest blue eyes, named Eio. This is the first boy Pia has ever seen, and she finds herself fascinated by this stranger.

Pia begins to make sneaking out of Little Cam a habitual act, meeting Eio within the depths of the Amazon, and even meeting the Amazonian tribe he belongs to—the Ai’oans. Pia starts to learn that there are other ways of life than that of scientists:

“We…do things a lot differently, yes, but in many ways we are just the same as you…We eat, we sleep, we breathe. We smile when we’re happy, and we cry when we’re sad. When we swim, we must come up for air. When we work all day, our backs get sore. When we get cut, we bleed.”

Eio shows Pia the ways of the jungle, opening her mind to other ways of living, and thinking. Helping her to understand that, just because something is different, doesn’t mean that it is wrong:

“He said that seeing and understanding are two different things. Our eyes show us one side of an object, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t five other sides we can’t see. So why trust your eyes? Why live your whole life thinking that just because you can’t see every side to something, those other sides don’t exist?”

After many visits to the Ai’oan village and spending time with Eio, for the first time in her life, Pia begins to question her way of life, her goals, and everything she’s ever been taught and believed to be the perfect truth:

 “No one should live forever,” I whisper. “Isn’t that how it goes? There must be a balance. No birth without death. No life without tears. What is taken from the world must be given back. No one should live forever, but should give his blood to the river when the time comes so that tomorrow another may live. And so it goes.”

Through her continual escapes into the Amazon, and treks with Eio, Pia slowly unveils horrible truths about her life and existence in Little Cam. Inevitably, she must make some difficult decisions about what is right and what is wrong.

Origin is an enthralling read. I couldn’t devour it quickly enough…and the ending is killer! This dystopian narrative certainly doesn’t disappoint.

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