June 10, 2007

48 Hour Book Challenge: Another Evolution

Although this novel has a young adult as the main character, this book may not catch the interest of most YA's, unless they are very mature readers.

14-year-old Melanie (whom her brother Jared fondly calls Monchichi, because she was such a hairy monkey baby) is her father's "Born Again Child," and her mother's burden. She is, in many ways, bright, being a Bible Quiz Champion two years in a row, and in other ways, she is socially backwards, longing for the easy comfort of high school friends, yet leaving flyers in everyone's lockers at school to warn her schoolmates of the consequences of their sexual behavior. Melanie adores her father and tolerates her demon-sighting mother, somehow understanding without words that some of God's people are a little less ...balanced than others. Her sister, Kyle, is living in sin with a man who beats her and has fathered her baby, while her brother, Jared, lives in the basement, works nights, and frequently disappears trailing cigarette fumes.

Melanie loves her dysfunctional family as much as she loves God, but badly wants to be on the side of the righteous. She knows it would be so easy to make her parents proud, if she can only hold up her end of the bargain to stay her father's special girl, and to be perfect, so her mother will be able to love her. But Mel also wants to be like other girls - she cuts up her underwear into thongs to resemble the ones in her friend Beth's Frederick's catalog, and sometimes looks at the pastor and gets that 'can't-really-breathe' feeling, he's so cute. She's constantly praying for God to forgive her, even as she realizes that she can't control how she feels.

Lately, Mel's behavior has gotten a lot harder to defend. Dying to go to college someday, she's forged her parents signatures for Academic Camp, when she discovers that the paperwork shows The Origin of the Species as part of the camp's reading list. Darwin is #1 on the banned books list her youth group has given her, and Mel just knows that if her parent's see that, she's not going anywhere. But Mel's smart. She can just read Darwin and figure out where he's wrong, with her Bible at her side, strapped to her ankle like a dangerous weapon.

She's the Bible Quiz Champion. It should be pretty cut-and-dried. Right?

But facts are facts. Pretty soon, the facts show Melanie that her church isn't all she thought it was, and nobody -- her parents, her pastor, her friends -- no one is who she believed them to be.

This is a funny, sad, complicated novel about the passages a person can take from blind faith to blinded doubt. The end of the novel has no clear 'happily ever after,' but readers come away thoughtful about the nature of truth and whether or not it truly has meaning.

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