Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Book Review: The Chosen One

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams. (Grades 8+)

"If I was going to kill the Prophet," I say, not even keeping my voice low, "I'd do it in Africa."

So begins Kyra's story.

Kyra's thirteen when the Prophet announces that she's been Chosen. God has shown him that Kyra is to be married to Apostle Hyrum.

Apostle Hyrum, who is at least 60 years old.
Apostle Hyrum, who is Kyra's uncle.

Kyra thinks that it must be payback for her sins. She's committed many sins. There's thinking about killing the Prophet, for one. Then there are the books she's been sneaking from the mobile library that stops on the desert road outside the Compound. And then there's Joshua...

But Kyra must commit one more sin. Even if it means risking the lives of the people she loves, she knows that she can't marry Uncle Hyrum.

She's got to get out.
If she can.

When an ARC arrives with literally pages of blurbs from famous authors, bloggers, and reviewers, you take notice. This one's getting a lot of buzz, people. And it's worthy of that buzz because I think it's a book that teens are going to love.

Talk about a main character you're rooting for... Kyra practically jumps off the page. The plot's got enough twists and turns that it kept me on the edge of my seat. The bad guys are seriously bad here and you learn early on that they'll stop at nothing to get their way and keep their power intact.

Then there's the writing. It's not written in verse, but it could have been because some of the passages are just that poetic. Here's a passage* from when Kyra reads her first book from the library, Bridge to Terabithia:

"Who was this Katherine Paterson? Who was this Jesse and Leslie? People the writer knew? I could hardly read this book fast enough.
And when I did
when I got to the end
when I got to the end and
Leslie died
and Jesse was left alone without his best friend
I cried so hard that coming in from my hiding place, my tree, the book stashed in the branches, high in the prickles, Mother Victoria said, "Where have you been, Kyra? I needed help making bread." Then she looked at my face and said, her voice all worried, "Honey, what happened?"

I couldn't tell her a thing. Not a thing about Leslie or May Belle or Jesse all alone. I couldn't tell Mother Victoria a thing about drowning or running or painting." (pp 16-17)

Amanda wonders if it's a good idea to sensationalize a group of people about whom we know very little. It reminds me of a YALSA-BK discussion about Ellen Hopkins's Burned in which some readers felt that the book misrepresented the Mormon/LDS Church. I'm always a fan of author's notes to show how an author researched and/or what inspired her to write the story, but I will say that I firmly believe in reading responsibly. I don't think it's the novelist's responsibility to show all sides of the story or even to disclaimer, but it is our responsibility as readers to question what we read and do our own research. And as adults reading kidlit, maybe it's our responsibility to encourage kids to question and discuss the books they read.

Want more opinions? Check out reviews by Becky and Sarah.

The Chosen One
's due out May 12!

*All quotes are from ARC and may not reflect the final version of the book!


  1. Thank you for the reminder to "read responsibly." I hadn't heard about Burned (I'm an elementary librarian ... love YA lit but just must have missed that one) so maybe I will have to check it out.

    The thing I hope people will remember is that the MAJORITY of Mormon homes are not places where anyone has to fear anything. Neither parent is abusive of the children or each other. Family members are safe and loved.

    And hopefully people will remember that those who practice plural marriage are NOT members of the mainstream LDS church. Totally different groups with some big time differences in beliefs. One does not equal the other, no matter what any sort of media would have us believe.

  2. And I just looked on the author's website. Interesting that she says she "researched" by talking to someone who has left the LDS church. That is not really full research, is it? Give equal voice to people who are still happy with the faith. Anyway, that's all I'm going to say. I haven't read either one, yet.

  3. Not sure which book you're talking about, Angie, but I live in a heavily Mormon community here in northern Nevada. Have friends who are Mormons, and friends who are ex-Mormons. I have no issue with LDS at all (and yes, I understand the difference between LDS and FLDS). Most of my readers seem to understand that my protagonist's questions about her faith and her place in the wider world are because her family is totally dysfunctional. (Her father is an alcoholic so obviously not a "good" Mormon.)

    It is my experience that the majority of YA readers are much more sophisticated than many adults seem to believe. They are not easily brainwashed, and have their own ideas about faith, God and how those two things interact. Allow them to question. They'll find their own answers.

  4. Interesting. Not sure if it's enough to call it a trend, but I recently read Sister Wife, by Hrdlitschka, another YA novel dealing with plural marriage. The author never mentions FLDS by name, but it's pretty clear that's what she modeled the story's "community" on. In any case, these ripped-from-the-headline books should have no trouble finding an audience.

  5. I really, really want to read both the Chosen One and Ellen Hopkins book as well. I've read a lot of books about polygamy and yes, you must always read responsibly. (And to Angie - I believe Carol Lynch Williams is LDS. Whatever research she needed for the positive side I'm sure is simple life experience.)