Thursday, September 12, 2013

Book Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Pa`nop´ti`con ( noun). A circular prison with cells so constructed that the prisoners can be observed at all times. [Greek panoptos 'seen by all'] Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car, headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember the events that led her here, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and there is blood on Anais's school uniform. Smart, funny and fierce, Anais is a counter-culture outlaw, a bohemian philosopher in sailor shorts and a pillbox hat. She is also a child who has been let down, or worse, by just about every adult she has ever met. The residents of the Panopticon form intense bonds, heightened by their place on the periphery, and Anais finds herself part of an ad hoc family there. Much more suspicious are the social workers, especially Helen, who is about to leave her job for an elephant sanctuary in India but is determined to force Anais to confront the circumstances of her birth before she goes. Looking up at the watchtower that looms over the residents, Anais knows her fate: she is part of an experiment, she always was, it's a given, a liberty - a fact. And the experiment is closing in. In language dazzling, energetic and pure, The Panopticon introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction.

Best Bits: This one was very hard for me to rate. I'm very picky about the books I accept, because I have a hard time accepting books I don't think I'll like (since I know that author's blood/sweat/tears/potential papercuts go into their books). Unfortunately, my expectations for this one weren't what I received. I will say this: there are going to be people who will laude this book. The writing is gritty and doesn't shy away from profanity, or really sharing what the world can be like for those who get the short end of the stick. Fagan creates real characters, too. They're so real, that I know some people are going to be a bit uncomfortable with what they do and say. That's the sign that Fagan has captured something that most fiction doesn't have.

Nit Picks: When I received this book, I thought there was going to be a paranormal twist to it. When I accept adult fiction, I am always looking for crossover appeal, and somehow I think I totally missed what this book was really about. On one hand, I appreciated the mental health aspect, but on the other I felt like I kept turning pages waiting for something big/paranormal to occur. For me, this book wasn't what I was looking for so it's getting a lower rating for me. I do admit, however, that if you like gritty, realistic adult fiction, this one might be the perfect thing to kick off fall with!

The Panopticon
By Jenni Fagan 
Published by Hogarth
282 Pages
Received for an honest review
Rating: D


brandileigh2003 said...

Aw, so sorry to hear that this wasn't what you expected. The mental health aspect apeals to me though

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