11 May 2012

Imprint Friday: The Testament of Jessie Lamb by Jane Rogers

Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.

Despite the flood of dystopian novels in the last few years, I never tire of genre. The books that particularly catch my attention are those that take place in the not-so-distant future and paint a fairly believable world. Jane Rogers's The Testament of Jessie Lamb is a literary and feminist look at one possible scenario.

Here's the publisher's summary:

A rogue virus that kills pregnant women has been let loose in the world, and nothing less than the survival of the human race is at stake.

Some blame the scientists, others see the hand of God, and still others claim that human arrogance and destructiveness are reaping the punishment they deserve. Jessie Lamb is an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl living in extraordinary times. As her world collapses, her idealism and courage drive her toward the ultimate act of heroism. She wants her life to make a difference. But is Jessie heroic? Or is she, as her scientist father fears, impressionable, innocent, and incapable of understanding where her actions will lead?

Set in a world irreparably altered by an act of biological terrorism, The Testament of Jessie Lamb explores a young woman's struggle to become independent of her parents. As the certainties of her childhood are ripped apart, Jessie begins to question her parents' attitudes, their behavior, and the very world they have bequeathed her.
Like many a teenager, Jessie pays little attention to politics and the big issues that adults discuss around the dinner table. She and her friends never think to question the nature of their culture or the human-built world around them. Only when the effects of maternal death syndrome (MDS) begin to hit close to home does Jessie start to pay attention and eventually take a moral stand.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb asks some big questions about what happens when human rights are stripped away and about individual obligations for saving humanity. What if the only way for humans to reproduce was for women to volunteer to bear immunized test-tube babies? The catch is that the babies would live, but the mothers would not. What would make you chose to be both hero and victim at the same time? As Jessie evaluates her life so far and looks to the future, she must make some hard decisions before her freedom of choice is taken away from her.

Because Jane Rogers brings up so many issues relevant to today's political climate, The Testament of Jessie Lamb would make a great book club pick. Topics for discussion include bioterrorism, women's rights, reproductive rights, moral issues surrounding medical practices, and parents' power over their children. Readers seem to be divided about the target audience of this dystopian novel, but despite the teenage protagonist, the themes seem to be geared toward adults. Read it, discuss it, and you be the judge.

Here are some other views (click on the links for the full review):
  • Liviu writing at Fantasy Book Critic: "foremost it is a voice novel which kept me hooked me from the first to the last page with its poignant and emotional style."
  • Christa writing at Hooked on Books: "There is so much I loved about this book . . . . But the best thing is the range of emotions it provokes while you're reading it."
  • Katy Guest writing for The Independent: "The novel does not set up an elaborate apocalypse, but astringently strips away the smears hiding the apocalypses we really face. Like Jessie's, it is a small, calm voice of reason in a nonsensical world."
  • For a variety of opinions both positive and negative, see the Book Club discussion in the comments at Linus's Blanket. (Warning: comments contain spoilers.)
The Testament of Jessie Lamb was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and short-listed for an Arthur C. Clarke award. For more on Jane Rogers, visit her website or like her Facebook page.

Harper Perennial is a featured imprint on Beth Fish Reads. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. I encourage you to add your reviews of Harper Perennial books to the review link-up page; it's a great way to discover Good Books for Cool People. And don't miss the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

The Testament of Jessie Lamb at an Indie
The Testament of Jessie Lamb at Powell's
The Testament of Jessie Lamb at Book Depository
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Published by Harper Perennial, May 15, 2012 (HP edition)
ISBN-13: 9780062130808


Allison 5/11/12, 8:54 AM  

I never grow tired of Dystopian novels, either. I think because they open philosophical debate, and who doesn't love a good debate now and then? It's hard to stop the human mind from thinking, "But what if?"

I don't think I have heard of this book before, but it truly sounds amazing so I am going to try and pick it up this weekend. Thanks for the recommendation. :)

Daryl 5/11/12, 9:28 AM  

another added to the list .. I need to read faster ..

Marie Cloutier 5/11/12, 10:42 AM  

I'm reading this now and it's very good. I think it won the Arthur C. Clarke award.

Karen White 5/11/12, 11:57 AM  

I read this as part of an online book club and we DID have an intense discussion! The book evokes strong feelings and opinions but as in life, there really are no clear right answers.
I found that it took a little time to get into as its full of London references and lingo, as well as to sort out all the details of MDS, but once I wrapped my head around it I found it a very compelling read.

Jenn's Bookshelves 5/11/12, 1:36 PM  

I have this one in my reading pile! Glad to her you liked it!

bermudaonion 5/11/12, 3:34 PM  

That's just the kind of dystopia I like as well. When it's somewhat believable, it can be creepy.

Zibilee 5/11/12, 6:11 PM  

I am reading this one soon, and your review has made quite an impression on me! I can't wait to get to it and see what I think. I love these kinds of dystopian novels as well. Very impressive review!

caite 5/11/12, 8:56 PM  

I like dystopian fiction well enough, but I am a getting pretty picky. This does sound like one for the winner pile...

Lisa Guidarini 5/13/12, 3:54 PM  

Oh, does this book sound gripping! Onto my list it goes. I'm just the same re: dystopian novels. Have any of you read 'Curfew' by Jesse Ball? It's sort of a dystopic/magical realist novel. Really brilliant. Sad, but brilliant.

The Well Read Fish 5/16/12, 11:48 AM  

I too always enjoy a good dystopian book. My favorite is probably Oryx & Crake. . . though I will be adding this one to my list.

I was just wondering why so many YA books that are popular these days are about dystopian worlds.

I'm happy to read some of them, but moreover I like non-YA ones too.

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