by Jane Rogers
Pub. Date: May 15, 2012
Book received from: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
The Testament of Jessie Lamb gives us a dystopian-esque world that feels very real and palpable that it seems a nearly possible scenario. A virus has been manufactured and released across the world by an unknown source, targeting pregnant women. While the virus lies dormant in everyone, it is activated when a woman becomes pregnant, leading to her imminent death. Thus, the result being eventual, and fairly rapid, extinction of humans.
While scientists have extensively researched the virus, the death toll rises and time is running out. There are many controversial experiments being discussed and carried out, including the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ program, in which young women are implanted or become pregnant naturally and are then put to sleep for the duration of the pregnancy- the result being their death upon birthing the child, thus making them living incubators. However, the babies are able to be given a vaccine that will make them immune to the virus, ensuring they will be able to populate later in life.
Jessie Lamb is a quiet yet strong-willed young woman living in a world that is on the edge of collapse. The most interesting and engrossing thing about this book is the resolute calmness this leading lady is able to convey, even when everything around her is chaotic. It is almost as if Jessie is the eye of a storm, bringing reprieve from the destruction of her world and causing the reader to not be fearful, but rather really see what is going on. Her voice also conveys a sadness, indicating a certain resignation that comes with knowing everything is a mess, but a hopefulness that any small act may lead to change. While she is fighting for survival, she succumbs to a numbness when dealing with the violence around her.
The first half of The Testament of Jessie Lamb draws the reader into a world that is muted and desperate, yet hints of a revolution on the horizon. It deals with issues of violence against women, reproductive freedom, medical privacy, the sexualized politics of women’s bodies, religion, science, and so much more. Instead of being action-packed like a lot of dystopians, it follows the lives of those who are taking different paths in coming to terms with the new world in which they find themselves. This is a novel that could easily be for an older YA audience, but is marketed toward adults. It is written in the voice of a 16-year-old, but she is wise beyond her years due to the realities she faces. Although the second half of the book was a bit tedious and veered off path for me, it is still completely worth the read.
Jessie Lamb reads like an indie movie at an art house. It is beautiful, palpable, resonates with sadness, dense at times, and has won several awards, even though it loses some of the audience along the way. Although who the audience is exactly is somewhat uncertain- but there definitely is one. It is the concept and overall feeling that gives this book life, rather than the characters and storyline. Although I was disappointed for the last half, I am still thinking about this book- I am quite sure that is a good thing.
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This book can be purchased at Amazon.com, as well as your local independent bookseller.
For more about Jane Rodgers, go to her website here.