Title: The Panopticon
Author: Jenni Fagan
Publication Date: July 23, 2013
Source: copy received for honest review through TLC Book Tours
Plot Summary from Goodreads:
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.
Have you seen the movie Trainspotting? My immediate thought upon finishing the first chapter of The Panopticon was that Anais Hendricks would be a great extra in Trainspotting. Her funny/crude/witty Scottish voice is a perfect fit. (Plus, you know, the whole drug thing. That too.)
This could just be because I'm a lame American who associates cool Scottish accents with Ewan McGregor movies. Sorry for that. But after that intro, you have to admit you're at least a LITTLE intrigued.
I wasn't sure what to think of this novel in the beginning. Should I focus on the question of whether Anais beat up the policewoman or not? Should I concentrate on the awful realities of the foster system that are depicted in the novel? Or should I just focus on Anais as a character? My advice to you, as a reader, is to go with option #3. The "mystery" of the policewoman's injury is relatively unimportant...the details about the foster system are compelling for sure...but Anais is the star here. As a protagonist, she really shines.
Anais is lost within the foster system, and having lived without any family or solidity for so long, she is now at the point where she is struggling to determine her lot in life. The social workers and the courts no longer see her as a person capable of intelligent or wholesome action--she is a lost cause to them. But inside, she knows she is able to do something more--even if the rest of the world refuses to see it. Watching her battle with this internally throughout the novel is both fascinating and heartbreaking.
Heartbreaking: because all Anais really wants in the world is for someone to be watching her, and to care. Despite her hard outward facade, this is what lies underneath. Jenni Fagan does a great job melding this confused inner persona with Anais's tougher outer shell, and I think that's part of what makes her characterization so great.
The ending is perfection. It doesn't wrap everything up perfectly, but it gives you enough to imagine what the end result could be for Anais's future. (Okay, and it also makes you want to throw your fist up and give her an "EFF YEAH!" That's a plus.)
My only warning: the language is not for the faint of heart, and there are some very R-rated scenes involved (drugs, sex, you name it). However, it's all relevant to Anais's history and lifestyle, so it's not gratuitous in any way. If you can handle that, I'd say it's worth working through the graphic parts to give this one a try.
This is a solid 4-star for me on Goodreads. It took me a while to see where it was going, but in the end, I found myself with compelling story, and a main character who is getting added to my short list of favorite protagonists.
Much thanks to Lisa and TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour!
HERE. And connect with Jenni Fagan on her website and Twitter.
TLC Book Tours is offering up a copy of The Panopticon, which is pretty awesome of them, I'd say. Just use the Rafflecopter below to enter. US residents only please. Giveaway ends the night of August 27, 2013!a Rafflecopter giveaway