Jun 3, 2010


by Peter Dickinson

I've always marveled at how differently other species experience the world. What would it be like, I wondered countless times as a child, to flex your wings and navigate the air like a bird? to follow a scent that tells you a thousand things, to feel the smallest tremor of movement via your whiskers...? Thus Eva was a book that really intrigued me as a teen. Warning: I may be unable to resist a few spoilers. If you want to be surprised, just read the book without finishing my post!

This is a futuristic story, set in a time where most large animals have gone extinct in the wild, only existing on film or in zoos. Eva, just thirteen years old, suffers a horrific accident and wakes up after a lengthy coma in the hospital. She's disorientated, confused by strange dreams. She's unable to move, and can hardly speak. At first her parents try to keep her from realizing what's been done to her, but soon she learns that through some freakish advanced medical science, her mind, her very self, has been put into the body of a chimpanzee. Suspend your disbelief and jump into the narrative, and the ensuing story is fascinating.

At first Eva struggles just to make sense of her new experience. How to move her limbs, how to communicate, etc. It's not too difficult for her to accept her new reality, as she grew up among chimps (her father did research work with them). But the fame is another thing. People react to her with pity, or horror, or even trying to turn her situation into a media opportunity. Some want to make her a scientific study, others the pivotal figure for an environmental movement. But she really just wants to find herself, and live fully this new experience. Eva eventually gains access to a compound where chimpanzees are captive, but pretty much lead their own lives. It takes time and patience for her to become accepted by them, and at first she just sits quietly to observe. She can't help ending up interacting with them, and her presence begins to change their behavior as well. Drawing on primal memories she feels in her dreams, she starts to long for the natural environment chimps used to live in, and begins to incite her primate companions to break out and try to find that way of life again. It's not a move that will be met with acceptance by most of the people that surround her, however.

Well, I think I've said too much already! If you like dystopias and animal stories, this book is a perfect mix of the two. It's got well-drawn characters, sticky environmental issues, wonderful descriptions and page-turning events. Just putting all this down makes me want to pick it up and read again right now. I've looked but never found another Dickinson book I liked quite as well. Has anyone read other titles by him? got a recommendation?

This book is part of my permanent collection; I bought my copy used.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 219 pages, 1988

More opinions at:
Eating YA Books


  1. I have no recommendations for further Dickinson reading, although I know that he's married to Robin McKinley and they've done two (maybe three?) compilations of stories together. Maybe those would be a good next place to go on Dickinson?

  2. Sounds interesting, if a little strange. Thanks for the review!

  3. Jenny- I knew he was married to McKinley (a favorite author!) but I didn't know they'd done stories together. Does that mean they're collections of shorts, and they both wrote some? or they worked on the stories as co-authors?

    BlackSheep- It is kind of a strange book! but good nonetheless.

  4. Oh, wow, this is McKinley's husband, eh? How interesting. This looks like a book that would have blown my mind back in the day. Very cool review! And I love that you included the various book covers!

  5. Chandra- I don't usually include more than one cover, but I thought they were all so interesting I had to share multiples!

  6. I had a Peter Dickinson fixation after I read Eva in jr. high. My favorites were The Seventh Raven and A Bone From a Dry Sea. They're all very different books, but compelling.

    Thanks for the link! :)

  7. Sam- Thanks for the recommendations! I'm definitely going to look for those titles.


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