I’ve had this book Origin by Jessica Khoury on my “to-read” shelf in Goodreads for the past … I don’t know, year. I’d read the synopsis a few times but I had so many books in that “to-read” shelf that I never really thought too much about Origin. At the time, I was so obsessed with fantasy and dystopian that this science-fiction novel didn’t really register on my radar.
So there is sat on my bookshelf for months, probably a year, until just the other day, I thought, “I haven’t read a good book in a while. Why don’t I go onto Goodreads and choose a book from the ‘to-read’ shelf that is way, way, way too big?”
So I did. Origin was the book I chose.
When I first started reading it, I’ll admit I was a little concerned. It started out very slow and I’m not a huge fan of books that take forever to dive into the action and visit the catalyst (which is also a highly used word in this book …). Looking back I realize that because it was such a complex world, Jessica Khoury surely had to take a while to set it up enough for the reader to really feel a part of the story.
Pia, our heroine, lives in a facility in the Amazon known as Little Cambridge, affectionately nicknamed “Little Cam.” She is not your average seventeen-year-old girl. Pia happens to be the product of an experiment five generations in the making. She can never die, has bulletproof skin, will never bleed, will never get sick, will never grow old. She has enhanced speed, sight, smell, and hearing. She’s the perfect human … minus her very mortal strength.
Pia loves Little Cam and her family (she calls all the scientists Uncle this or Aunt that) even though most would consider it a pretty dysfunctional family; Pia just doesn’t realize how dysfunctional it is. She wants to become a scientist like Uncle Paolo, the head scientist at Little Cam. She wants to help him collect the nectar from the elysia flower that is the main ingredient in making Immortis, the solution to death. But when consumed alone, elysia is deadly … within seconds. There’s a catalyst that counteracts the flower’s poison and transoforms it into the life-extending potion, Pia just doesn’t know what the catalyst is. But she’ll learn it when she passes all of her Wickham tests and becomes a scientist.
The story doesn’t really begin until Pia begins to wonder about the outside world, the jungle she’s never even been allowed into, and the Earth she doesn’t even know about. Pia is the definition of sheltered (she doesn’t even know big cities like London, New York, Paris). So one night, when Pia finds a break in the electric fence that runs around the facility, she decides she is finally going to get out and see the jungle. Taking her friend jaguar, Alai, she slips out of Little Cam ….
And smacks right into Eio.
Eio is a native of the Amazon, a resident of the Ai’oa village that knows the activites of Little Cam pretty well (Trust me I’ll talk about Eio more later). Pia convinces Eio to take her to her village to show her around and Eio obliges. Pia begins to experience things she never thought imaginable and sees things she never knew exitsted (such as the wild native boy that captures her heart at first sight).
At first Eio thinks she’s just another scientist but is fascinated by her all the same … After all, Pia is the epitome of beauty – she was bred from five generations of cream-of-the-crop people. Later, when Eio begins to realize that Pia isn’t like the other scientists, Eio becomes worried for Pia and voices his concerns about Little Cam, trying to convince Pia that she doesn’t need the scientists.
Pia is stubborn and doesn’t listen to Eio, even as she begins to wonder if what he says is true. Mysteries suddenly form around Pia’s Little Cam and unanswerable questions are thrown at her. Pia is stuck between two worls that can never coexist and doesn’t want to make a choice between them but she is rapidly running out of time. Little Cam may not be the sweet home she thought she grew up in. Pia begins to stumble upon evidence backing Eio and his father up, especially the mysterious halls of B Labs, that supposedly burned in a horrendous fire. But Pia still isn’t ready to accept that her home may not be the best hope humanity has, and her stubbornness may take everything she loves away from her.
So there’s your not so short synopsis. Moving on to my most favoritest part …
Pia: Little miss Pia is a sweet girl that is used to being told that she is perfect. All the scientists look at her and say one word: Perfect. Because that’s what she is. She is the product of five generation’s worth of perfect genetics and now the DNA of a life-extending flower. Pia will never die. She’s immortal, and she loves it. She’s accustomed to being called perfect and at times can come across as snooty but I would too if I was used to being called perfect and then had some strange jungle boy call me ugly.
Pia loves her family and the facility and wants nothing more than to become a scientist. She’s relentlessly stubborn to her own downfall and fights her feelings on everything. Her inner turmoil is fierce, going back and forth between when Wild Pia talks and when Timid Pia does.
When Pia meets Eio, she immediately feels something for him. I wouldn’t have called it love-at-first sight until I read the whole book, though. It didn’t seem like insta-love at first but it definitely was. I don’t know, I’ve sort of gotten accustomed to insta-love and it doesn’t bother me so much anymore. Some people probably hated this aspect of the book but personally it just felt right and I loved it.
Throughout the book, Pia fights her feelings for Eio … to the point of deciding that she doesn’t need him, doesn’t want anything to do with him anymore.
How could she think that?!
Which brings me to Character 2.
Eio: I wasn’t sure I’d like this jungle boy when I first read the synopsis or Origin, and even after I began the book I was a little skeptical. I’m used to reading about dashing Captains of the Guard, warrior types in post-apocalyptic worlds, and heroes like that! When I read about Eio I first thought of the kid from Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Boy was I wrong.
Eio is literally the most delicious, beautiful, heartthrob I have ever read about in any book. Ms. Khoury’s descriptions of him are vivid and gorgeous. Eio has grown up in the little village of Ai’oa but he’s not all Ai’oan … His father is a scientist at Little Cam. Which scientist, you ask? I don’t know. Eio doesn’t reveal it and Pia doesn’t find out for a while … You’ll just have to read to see.
Eio is heart-breakingly beautiful in both the physical and emotional way. He cares for Pia from the moment he lays eyes on her, inisiting that he walk her back to Little Cam, since she shouldn’t be alone in the jungle at night. Now, I’ve heard some controversy over that line in the book, feminists griping because “Who is he to tell Pia that she needs help walking through her jungle?” But I’m not gonna bash that line. I love that line.
Girls, listen up! Yeah, that’s right, we don’t need a guy to help us all the time. We can do anything and everything … but we shouldn’t have to. We were designed to want a guy to help us. That’s right! I know deep down you feel it too! So next time your boyfriend opens the door for you, don’t chew him out over making you feel week and inferior, thank him for being such a gentleman.
All rants aside, back to Eio. Eio loves Pia and is tries to convince her to stay away from Little Cam. At one point he even suggests they run away together! But Timid Pia won’t have any of it. She might love Eio (even if she doesn’t realize it) but her scientists and the immortal race she wants to produce is more important.
By the end of the book, Eio is crazy about Pia. He is willing to do anything, risk everything, to save her. He tries to climb the electric fence over and over even when Pia is screaming at him to stop, terrified his heart will just stop beating. Eio is electrocuted, stabbed with a needle, shot, dragged through the mud, and pretty much mistreated in every way he could be to save Pia and to give her another, better chance at real life.
Pipe down, Romeo. You ain’t got nothin’ on this boy.
The Romance in the book almost seemed subtle at first. Pia would say that she had this burning passion for Eio but I don’t think she really realized what that meant. Pia doesn’t recognize that she is in love with Eio for a really long time, and the two almost act like they’re just friends. Until Eio almost kisses her by the swimming hole.
Pia is panicked by what she feels and knows that Eio is becoming a distraction to her work. Yet she still wants to hang on to Eio, drag him along. She’s desperately in love with him and doesn’t even realize it. Their romance is insanely sweet and innocent!
If there is one complaint I have about the romance, it’s that the whole book you’re waiting for Eio to finally kiss Pia or Pia to decide that she’s going to kiss Eio and there are so many close calls that you’re just like “Yes, yes, yes! Ugh, dang it!” the whole book. Then in the very end, Pia tells Eio she’s ready for that kiss now, and then that’s basically all you get. You’re just like “… What?” But oh well. Nothing can take away from how amazing this book was.
Origin was a fantastic read. I would suggest it to anyone who enjoys science-fiction or dystopia or just awesome heroes and heroines, because we’ve got two of the best right here in one story. I really, really, really, really, really, really, really want Ms. Khoury to bring Eio and Pia back – the Corpus Series won’t be the same without them!
What’s on your bookshelf?