Unclaimed (The Memoirs of Jane E, Friendless Orphan #1) by Erin McCole Cupp
Born not in a past of corsets and bonnets but into a future of cloning and bioterror, could Jane Eyre survive? This Jane is an "unclaimed embryo," the living mistake of a reproductive rights center--or so her foster family tells her. At age ten she is sold into slavery as a data mule, and she must fight for freedom and identity in a world mired between bioscientific progress and the religions that fear it. What will happen to a girl without even a name of her own?
After I finished Jane Eyre for the first time in January, I thought what better time than now to finally read Unclaimed? It had been sitting in my Kindle queue since its release last summer, but I wanted to wait until after I'd read the original story before diving into a retelling.
Unclaimed introduces us to Jane E, an unclaimed embryo being raised as a foster child by the VanDeer family. Mrs. VanDeer is fairly wealthy and her three biological children receive the best she can afford, but she loathes Jane and supplies her with only the bare minimum. After Jane snaps under the abuse of her foster siblings and fights back, Mrs. VanDeer essentially sells her to the Naomi Foundation, a mysterious organization located in India, where she becomes a data mule.
The world in which Jane E lives is a scary one. Certain religions are outlawed and special interest groups seem to rule the world, with most incomes, healthcare services, and other benefits of society come only with belonging to an INGO. Everything from purchasing power to the ability to enter buildings depends on having the right identification. Bioethics seems to have disappeared completely as human cloning, frivolous genetic re-keying, and suicide-on-demand services are considered banal. We don't see much of a dictatorial government, although we feel the weight of uncertainty and mistrust as Jane navigates the world around her. Much like the Victorian Era of the original Jane, society seems to oppress itself into submission.
I had my doubts as to how Jane Eyre, a classic and beautiful but very dated and time-specific story, could be transplanted to the future, those doubts proved to be fruitless. While a little slow-starting (much like the original), Unclaimed is unique and exemplifies why Charlotte Bronte's gothic romance transcends the bounds of time and place to form universal truths. Usually, futuristic/dystopian stories spend a good deal of time explaining the society in great detail. Erin McCole Cupp sidesteps this technique and instead reveals her world slowly through context. There is almost no exposition, which leaves the reader curious and eager to learn more. A few times I wished she would explain things further, but for the most part this worked to the book's advantage. On to Nameless!