Christina’s Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

Christina’s Review: The Panopticon by Jenni FaganThe Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
Published by William Heinemann on 2012
Pages: 324
Format: eBook
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.

If you are sensitive to drug usage… E, acid, cocaine, marijuana, Percocet, etc… do not read this book.

If you are sensitive to young teenage sex and vulgarity… do not read this book.

If you are sensitive to the “F bomb” being dropped five to ten times in a conversation… definitely do not read this book.

If you like straight-forward, concise writing… writing with full sentences and a clear path or story that is easy to follow… you probably do not want to read this book.

The Panopticon follows a teenage girl, Anais, on her journey through sex, drugs, violence, teenage angst, and run-ins with the law as she has been moved from one home to the next throughout her life. She did not know her parents and her adopted mother she lived with for a few years did not last. The book begins with Anais being taken to the Panopticon, a circular celled living space with a watch tower to keep an eye on the residents, after being found with blood on her school uniform along with a cop in a coma. In the Panopticon, Anais meets other characters who have been brought in under rough conditions and encounters with the law. She forms a unique, familial bond with these members… one that experiences highs and lows and brings these outcasts together in a harsh community. In addition, to haunt Anais’ moves, the experiment is following her and calculating her every action…

This book was a unique read selected as our September book club pick. A thriller that played with my brain, the book was too jumpy and vulgar for me. It was hard to follow, especially as Anais was tripped out on drugs and intertwining her emotions, hallucinations, encounters and thoughts in a series of partial sentences and rolling events. This dramatic teenage series of events left me unsatisfied in the end. The book felt incomplete and I felt the beginning and results that developed along Anais’ journey did not link back up to the end well.

The book did not meet my expectations, and I had some misgivings about Anais’ character and other events that occurred throughout the book, some with results left unanswered and me just floating there. These questions will continue to be left unanswered, and sadly, I do not have the desire to think further into them. However, I am interested in hear how others interpreted the book and what they thought of the events that took place throughout. Looking forward to the book club discussion, but unfortunately, I do not recommend this book to others for a casual read.

pj - christina

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