Flashback Fridays: A dream of trees . . .

You’re a girl on the verge of adolescence who winds up in an accident–it’s a severe accident that destroys your body.  Your grieving scientist parents decide to save you through the only means they know how . . .

Do you remember:

Eva by Peter Dickinson (Laurel Leaf, c1988)

This is one of those . . .odd books that is hard to classify and sell to readers.  But then I generally find Peter Dickinson to be an odd sort of writer.  Not bad, mind you, just . . . odd.  And Eva is certainly in keeping with this rule.

Just a warning there are some mild spoilers below.  So if you haven’t read the book and would rather not be enlightened as to the plot, you may want to skip over the below text.  It’s one of those books where it’s rather impossible to avoid discussing the key plot point.

Eva is a thirteen-year-old girl growing up in a dystopian vision of the future.  Her world is overpopulated, the natural resources are running out and many animals have gone extinct.  Her scientist parents work with chimpanzees and so Eva has been around them most of her life.  But when a horrific accident nearly kills her and puts her in a coma, her parents come up with the only solution they can think of to save their daughter.  They put the mind of Eva into the body of a chimpanzee.  The transplant of mind and personality isn’t easy, but it is successful.  Eva wakes up from her coma trying to puzzle out why everything is so strange for her.  Only gradually does she realize what’s been done.

Her parents have engineered a device for her that allows her to key in speech, and slowly Eva begins to adapt to her new form.  But she’s still in the body of a chimp and her freedom of self is limited at best–she’s in the body of an animal, one that has no rights and is owned by others.  Where does that leave Eva? And even is no longer just a human girl–she’s a human mind influenced by chimpanzee body instincts, leaving her with a foot in both worlds and some hard choices to make as to her own future.

This is a very dark, poignant and powerful look at a future.  It’s not all that favorable to the outcome for humans, but gives readers a lot of food for thought.  Some readers today might lump this in as “just another dystopian novel” but it was well ahead of the curve of the trend.  This book is in my middle grade as well as teen section and regularly features on at least one summer reading list.  There aren’t easy answers here to anything, but plenty of food for discussion and debate.

Peter Dickinson is an veteran English author and poet who is well known for his children’s and YA books.  Before Eva, he’d explored dystopian themes with his The Changes trilogy where the people of England suddenly and inexplicably develop an antipathy to all trappings of technology.  His books are usually thoughtful and full of societal observations.  Some of these can be very grim indeed.

This is perhaps my favorite book by the author.  I certainly wouldn’t say it’s for everyone.  The story itself is pretty depressing and there are readers who won’t respond well to that darkness in the story.  The fact that it doesn’t follow along typical story arcs means it’s not necessarily going to be a comfortable read–but then, I don’t think it was ever meant to be one.

Any other fans of Peter Dickinson’s work out there?

comments welcome!

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About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on September 13, 2014, in Flashback Fridays and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. A flashback for me too! I was thoroughly haunted by this book when I first read it as an early teen. Not necessarily in a bad way, though I’ll admit to being a bit scared of parts, but I’d never read anything in this vein or encountered a story like it. It has stuck with me ever since and I’m always glad to see it mentioned somewhere!
    For some reason it’s always paired in my memory with Marianne Dreams by Catherine Storr which I suppose I read around the same time. Whenever anyone asks me for books that scared me growing up, these two top the list! No Goosebumps here, but well-crafted enduring books which I hope will be around for years to come.
    Thanks for the trip down memory lane,
    Em

  1. Pingback: My 400th Post: What Brought Me This Far: 100 Books in my Blood | Views From the Tesseract

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