Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Panopticon

Jenni Fagan

Anais Hendricks, fifteen, is in the back of a police car. She is headed for the Panopticon, a home for chronic young offenders. She can't remember what’s happened, but across town a policewoman lies in a coma and Anais’s school uniform is covered in blood.

Raised in foster care from birth and moved through twenty-three placements before she even turned seven, Anais has been let down by just about every adult she has ever met. Now a counter-culture outlaw, she knows that she can only rely on herself. And yet despite the parade of horrors visited upon her early life, she greets the world with the witty, fierce insight of a survivor.
Anais finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon – they form intense bonds, and she soon becomes part of an ad hoc family. Together, they struggle against the adults that keep them confined. When she looks up at the watchtower that looms over the residents though, Anais knows her fate: she is an anonymous part of an experiment, and she always was. Now it seems that the experiment is closing in.

Named one of the best books of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and the Scotsman, The Panopticon is an astonishingly haunting, remarkable debut novel. In language dazzling, energetic and pure, it introduces us to a heartbreaking young heroine and an incredibly assured and outstanding new voice in fiction (from Netgalley)

My Thoughts

This is not a pretty story. There are no kids tip-toeing through the tulips. No sitting around the campfire, holding hands and singing Kumbaya and eating s’mores. Instead, we get a gritty, in your face story about young Anais, who has been raised in the child welfare system since birth. Failed foster care, failed adoptions, abused, using every and any drug she can get her hands on, Anais is a fighter.

I really liked Anais. She is smart. She has that sarcastic wit that you sometimes see in young teenagers who have been forced to grow up way to fast. She has a good eye when it comes to figuring out the adults in her life. I couldn’t help but cheer for her and hope that eventually something good would happen for this girl who had such a heartbreaking life.

At first I struggled with the use of Scottish terms, but once I got past that, the story really moved along. Even with the dour topic and setting, the author did a great job of interjecting humor. I’m glad I stuck with this book. My last thought as I finished this was that for some kids who have been raised in foster care, there is probably more truth to this story than make believe.

Thank you to Crown Publishing, via Netgalley, for allowing me to read this in exchange for an unbiased review.

Publish date: July 23, 2013.


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