January 28, 2009
The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
Jenna Fox knows that she was in a terrible accident, one that put her in a coma for weeks. When she awakens, she finds that her family has moved from Boston, to a remote area across the county in order to “facilitate her recovery.” Despite watching countless DVD recordings of her life, the people she calls mother and father feel like complete strangers.
However, while Jenna finds that she can’t remember anything about the accident, her childhood, even her family and friends; she is able to randomly quote pages of Walden by Henry David Theroux and recall minute details of historical events. As bits and flashes of images begin to appear in her mind, she starts to feel that those closest to her are hiding something…something big.
Mary Pearson’s book causes the reader to contemplate one of life’s great questions—“What makes us human?” Is it our body? Our memories? Our knowledge? Or it is something more? This is a chilling and thoughtful book, perfect for teens who think they don’t like science fiction.
January 11, 2009
The Patron Saint of Butterflies by Cecilia Galante
The story is told through the alternative views of Agnes and Honey, who live in the religious commune in Connecticut named Mount Blessing. The “True Believers” life a very strict life following the religious teachings of Emmanuel (the commune’s father) and Veronica (the commune’s mother). Kids are separated from their parents when they are 6 months old until they are 7, during which time they live in a separate nursery. Everyone must where blue robes, pray several times a day and never eat red or orange food (it is the symbol of the devil). With no technology or outside contact with the rest of the world, everyone strives to live a life of sainthood. If you commit a sin, or do not follow the rules, Emmanuel takes you to a place noone speaks of, the Regulation Room, where you can be retrained from your evil ways.
Not everyone though is happy with this life. While Agnes is accepting and loyal (even creating self imposed penances for her perceived sins and shortcomings), Honey longs to escape and see what life is really like. When a tragedy strikes and a discovery is made during an unexpected visit from Agnes’s grandmother (Nana Pete), questions arise about the commune’s practices and the safety of the children living there. Honey and Nana Pete are forced to make a descision that will change the lives of everyone involved.
I think that teens will truly enjoy this story. It gives a view of a world that many of them may have heard about in the past few years in the news. As the story unfold and more is learned about the commune, the reader feels equal parts shock, bewilderment and concern about the True Believer’s lives. Once I started it, I couldn’t put it down, anxiously holding my breath waiting to see what would happen to the girls and their family.