Friday, August 13, 2010

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

I love reading books that make me angry. It's either this side effect or the other that makes a book golden in my eyes: angry vs. blissfully happy. Great books stir emotions in their reader, and The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams did that for me. I read with rapt attention and disgust. Yes, disgust. Read the rest of my review to understand why...

Thirteen year old Kyra lives a quiet, simple life with her 19 brothers and sisters, her father, and his three wives. (Yes. She is one of 19...and I thought I got the short end of the stick being the middle child of three girls. No complaints here!) As a member of the polygamist cult, The Chosen Ones, Kyra lives in isolation with her people; only learning about the outside world through the books she sneaks into the compound from the nearest town's mobile library. (She likes to go for walks around the dirt roads surrounding the compound, and happens to encounter the County Mobile Library on one of her walks. She sneaks the books into the compound in her dress to read at night.) Reading these forbidden books has planted seeds of doubt in Kyra's mind about the preachings of Prophet Childs - the iron-fisted leader of The Chosen Ones, who claims to have a direct line of communication with Jesus himself. Prophet Childs has forbidden books and travel to the nearby town, warning the cult members that only the devil and his evil can be found outside the chainlink fences of the compound.

Kyra shares the secret of her books with another compound teen, Joshua. Through their secret meetings and discussion of books they become much more than friends and develop feelings for each other that also break the boundaries established by Prophet Childs. When the Prophet proclaims that he had a vision of Kyra marrying her 60 year old uncle, Hyrum, Kyra's world is tossed asunder. Is the world she lives within her books and in secret meetings with Joshua the right path to follow? Should she risk it all (and the possible safety of the family she loves dearly) to avoid marrying her cruel and aged uncle? Did I mention Uncle Hyrum is 60 and Kyra is 13. THIRTEEN! Yuck.

I read this novel in the span of two evenings - biting my fingernails and holding my breath with every turn of the page. I've always been curious about the lifestyle one must lead to be a part of a polygamist community, but I never really ventured what it must be like for the children who are brought up to know nothing but this lifestyle. I love how Williams uses books as Kyra's escape from the Compound. The view they give her of the outside world is what opens the window in Kyra's mind that her way of life might not be the only way to find fufillment and rightousness. This novel is by far and away one of the best teen reads of the summer!

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