"Ann Halam" is the YA pen name of sf writer Gwyneth Jones. In this novel, teenage Taylor, who lives with her parents on an orangutan reserve in Borneo, learns that she is actually the clone of a scientist friend of theirs. Just as she's beginning to come to grips with that, the reserve is attacked by rebels and Taylor flees into the jungle with her younger brother, a wounded scientist, and a suspiciously intelligent orangutan named Uncle.

This novel is intelligent, well-written, and fast-paced. It is also, as [livejournal.com profile] coffeeandink warned me, one of the most depressing YA novels I've ever read. It's not more depressing than Karen Hesse's Into the Dust, in which Billie Jo is growing up in the dust bowl and her only pleasure is playing the piano, and then she accidentally sets her pregnant mother on fire and Billie Jo's hands are horribly burned and they all writhe together in thirsty, untended agony because her father runs out to get drunk and leaves them alone, and then her mother dies slowly and the baby dies and Billie Jo can't play the piano any more and her father's a drunk in the dust bowl and it's all her fault. But it's up there.

What makes it so intensely depressing is not only the extremely sad events, but that it is the only YA novel I can think of that deals with a real-world problem (the destruction of the orangutan's habitat) that explicitly says, both in the novel and the novel's afterword, that the situation is not merely dire, but hopeless. In fact, the very last sentence in the book (in the author's note) includes the word "doomed."

Have a nice weekend, y'all!

From: [identity profile] janni.livejournal.com

I didn't find this anywhere near as depressing as Out of the Dust, though I couldn't tell you why. I did think it was very dark, and I did love it. (Actually, I loved Out of the Dust, too, even though it is the sort of book I usually don't like much at all.)
larryhammer: a low-fidelity picture of a man, label: "some guy" (Default)

From: [personal profile] larryhammer

Hmm. Maybe it's because I focused so much on Taylor's very real existential crisis as the spine of the book, that I found it more hopeful than depressing. Yes, the larger situation is screwed, and yes, there's some hopeless patches, but she's starting to get a grip on her nature and nurture.


From: [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com

I agree that it's damned depressing, but (1) I knew it was Gwyneth Jones by then and (2) it is far less horrifying than Gwyneth Jones books because most of the humans aren't trying to torture each other. Just change your benchmarks and it a-okay!
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)

From: [personal profile] oyceter

Wow, that is very depressing.

Maybe reading Slammerkin again will cheer me up ;).

I think you need to run a second round of Gratuitously Depressing Books!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

Oh God! And that was the one where I quit at the six-month sharpened stick abortion!

From: [identity profile] rachelmanija.livejournal.com

She finally begins to re-learn how to play the piano with her hideously scarred hands. That's the symbolic movement out of the dust.
octopedingenue: (someday together we'll shine)

From: [personal profile] octopedingenue

And then she plays Erik's operas after Christine dumps him for the French guy and Billie Jo fall for each other's mutual scarredness and they all live happily ever after?

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