April 9, 2015

The Panopticon by 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.


I feel like The Panopticon had very strong points, but the weaknesses began to outweigh the strengths after a while.  I felt that Anais was easy to relate to and I rooted for her, but something was just lacking. 

I never really understood what kind of a place she was in, though, this Panopticon.  Is it a foster home?  A juvenile detention center? An orphanage?  A mental health facility?  None of the scenarios quite make sense, but perhaps that is because in Scotland they have a different sort of home for young orphaned offenders that I as an American can't figure out.  They are keeping her for possible murder/manslaughter but she is allowed to just roam around and go on dates and whatever she pleases.  But they also don't let you shut the door to your room.  So you can see how it gets confusing.

The dialect was a challenge to figure out but once I did it read easily enough.  I think it was longer than it really needed to be. Not enough was happening.  I realize this was more of a character study than a plot-driven novel, but there wasn't enough insight into her character to keep me intrigued that way, either.  

I am not sure how better to flesh out my thoughts about this novel, if you will forgive the overused phrase. I just hoped for more.  

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