I’ll preface this by saying I haven’t read the book.
Here is one reviewer’s summary:
Mena’s friends are from her church. What kind of church, you may ask? The kind where you cannot read Harry Potter or watch Lord of the Rings. The kind where, when the biology teacher says “Evolution”, all her old friends turn their seats — literally, turn their seats around — and sit with their backs towards the teacher.
Mena did something that basically got her kicked out of church (she sticks up for an LGBT kid who refused to be “cured”). Her friends don’t like her. Her parents aren’t talking to her. And then in school, there’s a protest…:
When Mena’s friends start the evolution protest, she has to think for the first time about the choices in her life. If “the break” hadn’t happened, would she be turning her chair? And now that she isn’t in that group, and she listens to her teacher and students, what does she learn? Is evolution really anti-religion? Can a person believe in religion and also love science?
On its surface, the novel is the story of a conflict between a teacher determined to teach science and a fundamentalist church with a creationist agenda. And in that regard, it certainly doesn’t disappoint, though — thankfully — it never devolves into a diatribe, nor does it denigrate religion. Quite the contrary: The substance of the so-called “debate” itself is barely touched upon, and spiritual belief is a central theme of the story (not to mention a driving characteristic of the protagonist).
But to dismiss it as just being about that conflict would be to gravely misinterpret it: At its core, the novel is about a teenager learning to deal with the strange new world that opens up to her once she exits the safe confines of her earlier life. The evolution/creationism debate is simply the framework; the true story is in the universally identifiable conflict within Mena herself.
The preacher who pursues his agenda out of an outsized sense of personal vanity, or the (former) friends who glory in their maliciousness, are easy to hold up as antagonists (and I’ll confess that at times, I found it hard to separate from my adult sensibilities and remember the helplessness of being a teenager). And it’s easy to identify with Ms. Shepherd, who, far from being intimidated by the manufactured conflict, is both prepared and determined to remain unbowed in her desire to speak the truth against irrationality. But more interesting are the subtler characters, on both sides of the aisle: The church girl whose actions, however misguided, were truly motivated by a desire to be helpful. Or Casey’s sister, Kayla, who — even as she helps Mena out of her shell — has an unmistakable agenda of her own.
It was released last month by a youth division of Knopf books (Knopf also published Sam Harris’ Letter to a Christian Nation).
John, who submitted the link, adds this:
From the plot description it would seem that it’s an anti-christian book, but from the book reviews on Amazon, it seems that it isn’t at all as the main character maintains her belief in god. But, it sounds like it is definitely pro-evolution and pro-think-for-yourself, which is good.
(Thanks to John for the link!)
[tags]atheist, atheism, book, lesbian, gay, homosexual[/tags]