The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes. Grades 8+ Dial Books, June 2015. 400 pages. Review copy provided by publisher.
What it's about:
When Minnow was five years old, her parents moved the family to the remote woods of Montana to join a religious cult led by a Prophet named Kevin. Good Kevinian girls didn't read or write. They obeyed the prophecies that came to Kevin. They didn't doubt or question. They prepared for the war that the evil Gentiles would one day wage on them. But Minnow didn't quite buy it. And when she rebelled, they cut off her hands.
Now the Prophet is dead. The Community has burned to the ground. A green-eyed boy was beaten almost to death. And Minnow sits in a juvenile correction center, trying not to remember the horrors that came before. The FBI is investigating what happened and Minnow might be the key to unraveling the events of that horrifying night.
We have been doing so much booktalking this year that sometimes I feel like that's all my reading is - prepping for booktalks I will do. So it's been hard for me lately to get into books that I know I can't booktalk (YA stuff, since we only cover the elementary schools and early middle school grades).
Not so with this book.
I had heard some rave reviews and I picked this book up Sunday night and I seriously could not put it down. I finished it less than 24 hours later. That has NOT been happening lately, so you know this is a special book!
Minnow is a really compelling character, a strong girl who has escaped from those who would harm her and who is trying to stand on her own two feet. And her story is compelling, as well. Author Stephanie Oakes metes the back story out at a nice pace, keeping tension taut in the story while still giving you enough to keep you invested. I was also riveted by Minnow's time in prison, how she navigated the waters and how she managed with no hands. I was so engrossed in the story that it was hard to get it out of my head. I went to lunch with a friend and kept thinking about what it would be like if I had no hands myself.
The book reads like part crime-thriller, part religious cult expose, and it reminded me of several of my favorite TV shows - Orange is the New Black and The Unbreakable Kimmie Schmidt (not the tone of that last one, but a little bit of the premise).
I would totally booktalk it to 8th grade and up if I was doing teen booktalks. I think the premise alone (they CUT OFF HER HANDS!) makes a great booktalk and this is one that kids who like thrilling stories will clamor for.
After by Amy Efaw - another ripped-from-the-headlines type of story about a girl in juvie for abandoning her newborn baby in the trash.
The Year We Disappeared by Cylin Busby and John Busby - this true crime story has the same compelling style where you just can't put the book down until you know what happens.
I'd also hand this book to fans of Jodi Picoult, especially Plain Truth and The Pact.