Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

It's been quite a while (and I mean like college days) since I've read any actual adult dystopian.  It's sad because I'm a huge fan of the classic adult dystopians, but it's been a while since I've seen any published outside of the thriller sub-genre or YA sub-genre.  What makes this one particularly interesting is that it's actually about a teenage girl dealing with a post-apocalyptic society, and it largely focuses on her transition from child to adult, but it does so in a much more realistic way than most YA dystopians.

The basic premise for this one is that an unknown person or organization released a biological contaminant as an act of terrorism that has infected every woman in the world with MDS (Maternal Death Syndrome).  Even worse, as soon as each baby is born, it is also infected.  MDS causes mothers to die either during pregnancy or immediately after the birth of the baby, which means the human race is slowly headed towards extinction.

If you read the summary and see that this is a book about a teenage girl coming of age in a post-apocalyptic world and expect to read something similar to Divergent or the Hunger Games or any other typical YA dystopia, you're going to be very disappointed.  This is not an action/adventure type book and it's certainly not a romance.  The dystopian setting provides a more intense coming-of-age tale, but the book is really about what it means to grow up and make her own decisions apart from her family.  The true focus of the book is how she discovers who she is and what she wants her life to mean, particularly in this new world. 

That said, I think in this situation it actually elevates the quality of writing in this book.  It's much more literary and introspective in tone, as opposed to having a focus on overthrowing an evil empire or fighting a destructive force.  In this book, Jessie and the rest of the world have very little control over their situation.  Jessie is forced to examine the very small things she can do to make a positive impact on her world, knowing that those things may or may not have any effect at all. 

Entertainment Value
Because the book is so much more about what's happening in Jessie's mind and her own decisions, those who are expecting to be entertained with lots of action or shocking situations won't find that here.  But for me, that didn't make the book less interesting.  I actually liked seeing the more realistic side of post-apocalyptic life: that one person isn't going to solve the problems of a ruined world.  That each person can make decisions that may have a small affect on the world or those around them, but that we don't get a hero who singlehandedly saves the world from disaster. 

I recommend this one, particularly to those who enjoy classic dystopian books (Brave New World or A Canticle for Leibowitz).  I also think those who like a good literary coming of age story will appreciate seeing the transformation in Jessie as she starts to think for herself and develop her own personality.

Thanks to TLC for including me on this tour!  Click here to see a list of all the other tour stops!

1 comment:

  1. As long as I know a book isn't plot oriented, then I'm rarely disappointed. This seems like such an interesting book, and an especially good pick for a book club (says the girl who's in three book clubs).

    Thanks for being on the tour!