Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Brande, Robin. 2007. Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature.

This one will be short. I hope. I'm not going to comment on the "evolution" bit of this book. Because I don't think that's where I had my problems with it. I think this book was just a little too close, a little too personal for me to comment on. There were parts--not all parts mind you--that I could definitely see myself in the narrator. But because of that, it was a very uncomfortable read. I didn't want to see a reflection of me in junior high and high school. Not a fun journey. For example, her relationship with her parents. This is a strict household. There are many things she's not allowed to do. One of the things she's not allowed to do is watch or read certain movies or books. So our narrator, Mena, has never seen Lord of the Rings. (Growing up, in some ways we were restricted. I didn't see Star Wars until I had graduated from high school. I saw the movies for the first time about six months before they all hit theatres again "remastered.") But there are some big, big, big differences as well. Her family. Her church. Her school. What can I say? Her "church" is not like any of the churches I've ever encountered. I've never heard of a preacher behaving in such a way or preaching such a sermon. That's not to say that the rare exception might not exist. Her youth group. It doesn't really surprise me that her youth group can turn vicious. Pastors, I don't expect that from. Teenage guys and girls, well, it's not such a surprise that teasing, that bullying, that being snobby or snotty, that being cliquish is a part of it. Social hierarchies, making yourself feel better by making other people feel bad...that can happen whether you wear the label Christian or not. I think in part that's why Christians have a bad name in some circles is because of people who really don't get it at all. They should be called anything but Christian. I haven't really read a book--a YA book--where a youth group or a pastor was presented in a good light, an accurate light, a biblical light. There are no "good" literary examples. Her school. High school is tough unless you're part of the privileged few. Mena isn't. Not anymore. Her youth group has snubbed her. Her pastor has kicked her out. Her parents aren't speaking to her. She's got zero friends. Zero support group. So it was hard for me to "like" a lot of the characters. For the most part, I liked Mena, however. I liked her crush, her lab partner, Casey. There were some things I liked about the book, I did. But there were many times I felt uncomfortable, awkward reading it. That's not the author's fault. It's my fault. Reading is subjective. I don't feel that the book is hostile to true Christianity for the most part. (Keeping evolution out of it of course). I think the book addresses the very real issue of hypocrisy. But there were parts I wanted to cringe because of what was going on. As I said, that's all me. I didn't cringe because of the writing, the style, the language. I didn't cringe because of bad cliches and metaphors. I didn't cringe because of bad dialogue. It was just that the subject matter, for me, was one that made me uncomfortable. Just like thinking about my past makes me uncomfortable. I attended a Christian school, a private school. I wouldn't relive those junior high and high school years for any amount of money. The "Christian" part was a complete mockery. Granted, the meanness may have been tame compared to public school, I don't know. But it wasn't pretty at all if you weren't part of the select few. This book wasn't set at a private school. It's a public school. But teens wearing the label "Christian" and acting anything but...a little too close to home for me to read comfortably.


Charlotte said...

Another book on our Cybils list, Converting Kate, actually has a very nice pastor and youth group (Episcolpalian).

Em said...

I read Converting Kate and had the same thoughts as Charlotte.