- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original edition (May 15, 2012)
- ISBN-10: 0062130803
- Source: Publisher
Set in the near future, terrorists have unleashed a deadly virus known as Maternal Death Syndrome (MDS ) affecting pregnant women, preventing their bodies from reacting to and fighting viral agents their body’s defenses would normally be able to combat. This virus kills the pregnant woman long before she is able to deliver, essentially causing the victim’s brain to deteriorate. Once scientists discover that everyone has been contaminated with the virus the future of humankind is indefinite. They begin implanting young girls with a form of birth control in attempt to eliminate any possibility of pregnancy.
Jessie Lamb is a sixteen year old girl, the daughter of a scientist attempting to find a cure for MDS. As many are at that age, she’s flirting with activism and joins a young group of her friends whose mission is to strike out against actions that are causing the world as they know it to deteriorate. She refuses to ride in a car or use public transportation, convinced that society’s footprints on the planet are aiding in the slow but eminent decline of the world. Her friends begin to join more radical activism groups: her best friend joins a feminist group while the object of her affection joins an animal rights faction. All groups are inspired to action when scientists reveal a program in which young girls are encouraged to turn their bodies over to science, to carry babies to term, knowing they will not survive. Once implanted, the embryos can be vaccinated against the virus but unfortunately no cure is available for those already infected. Volunteers need to be under the age of 16 1/2; the success rate drops dramatically for those individuals over this age. Jessie sees this new discovery as a means to make her voice heard, despite her parents pleas that she reconsider.
Told from Jessie’s narrative, a young girl who is just beginning to realize her own individuality and place in the world, the author is able to confront many issues already forefront in our society including the age of legal consent, the rights one has to make choices about one’s own body, animal testing, and more. Jessie is forced to deal with a reality so harsh that many youth her age would be unable to contemplate. It is no shocker that this book has been long-listed for the Booker prize; it’s filled to the brim with discussion-worthy topics. My only desire would be to see the story from the point of view of other characters within the book, for since the reader is only allowed Jessie’s side of the story it seemed a bit limiting. Having more views of this harsh reality could have developed the story more, for I couldn’t help wanting to know more about the fate of this society.
Bottom line: The Testament of Jessie Lamb is a book that left me reeling, truly examining the way we as society view the individual’s right to choose. This is a book certain to make book club lists this summer and fall, full of topics to be discussed. Highly recommended.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the official tour page for other stops in the tour.