Five words from the blurb: women, dying, girl, innocent, heroism
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. I was gripped by the fast paced plot, but internally screaming at the frustrating actions of the narrator, the unlikely global events and the numerous bizarre plot twists.
The Testament of Jessie Lamb is set in the near future, at a time when an act of biological terrorism has caused all women to die during pregnancy. This leads the human race into imaging a time when there will no longer be any children, when the aging population will have to support themselves and when they will eventually have to face the extinction of the human race. The premise appealed to me greatly, but unfortunately the book concentrated on a seemingly bizarre solution to this problem (minor spoiler – highlight to read) - teenage girls who don’t see any point of living if they can’t have children (roll-eyes) decide to sacrifice themselves to create a new generation. ARRRGGHH!!
It is hard to explain what frustrated me most about this book, but I’ll try my best! In a similar way to The Unit, I had problems with the basic premise of the story and I was unable to suspend my disbelief because there were so many holes in the plot. I don’t want to spoil anything for those who haven’t read the book so I’ll just give a couple of examples from the first section: Why would terrorists want to wipe out the entire human race? Normally terrorists just want to kill a certain group of society. Why couldn’t they save the women by using contraception/the morning after pill/hysterectomies?
The most annoying aspect of this book was the narrator, Jessie Lamb. Her teenage outlook on life had me internally screaming at the pages. Everything problem had a simple solution and she seemed to think she had the power to save the world by herself. Her ideas were one-dimensional and failed to take into account the complexity of the adult world. I have had similar issues with teenage protagonists in the past (eg. The Stars in the Bright Sky, Pigeon English) and can see that people like this exist, but they drive me nuts. Reading about them is not an enjoyable experience. (Also note the awkward sentence structure in this passage).
I’d describe this as a good YA book – one that allows teenagers to think about a few issues relevant to them. I admit to being dragged along by the pace of the plot, but as an adult reader I was unsatisfied. My negative reaction to this book proves that it has affected me on some level and that is surely better than the boredom/indifference produced by others. I’d therefore recommend it as the perfect book group choice – I guarantee it will create a lively debate!
If you enjoy reading about life from the perspective of teenagers then I’m sure you’ll appreciate this book, but I can’t understand why it made the Booker long list.