Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature - Robin Brande

If Mena knows one thing, it is that she is hated. Well, it is actually more like despised, loathed, abhorred, etc. In other words she's an all around social pariah. All because she told the truth and did the right thing. She's just started her first year of high school and has absolutely no one to talk to. Not one person - everyone she used to know refuses to talk to her. They may shove her in the hallway, push her books out of her hand, or make rude comments, but actually talk to her? No way.

"I knew today would be ugly. When you're single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine. Its just that I hoped my first day of school - of
high school, thank you, which I've only been looking forward to my entire life - might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong."

So we know she's done something BIG, we know she says she did the right thing, but until about half way into the book we have no idea what incredibly awful thing it is that Mena did (and by that time we know that Mena did in fact do the right thing and that it wasn't an awful thing at all). What we do know is that Mena's family belongs to a very strict evangelical church that doesn't let you associate with anyone other than fellow members, she can't watch movies rated over PG, she doesn't watch or read anything that isn't first approved by her parents, and the pastor creates "missions" for the youth group to conduct. It was during one of these missions that Mena decided that maybe her youth group Isn't actually doing God's work.

This is also the year that the students learn about evolution in science class. Mena is assigned a very cute, smart lab partner, she has an amazing science teacher that helps open her eyes to science for the first time, but she also has several church members in her class. And her pastor decides that stopping the teaching of evolution will be the youth group's next mission. A massive show down ensues.

This was a funny and light book to read even with the religion VS science themes. I really liked Mena's voice. The book is in diary form, although it didn't seem quite like a diary to me and if you took out the dates at the beginning of every chapter, I'm not sure anyone would even notice that it was supposed to have been anything other than Mena just narrating her story. The other characters were relatively good, her lab partner being the most developed of all of them. Her parents are trying to do the right thing but are actually completely unreasonable (they continue to attend the church even though Mena is no longer welcome and they have her write essays about TV sermons while they attend services, she isn't allowed out of the house, and so on). The pastor and youth group are all suitably awful, none of them are very well developed but they don't need to be for you to dislike them all which is sort of the point. And we should all have a Ms. Shepherd in our life to make science interesting. She was fantastic.

If you're looking for a book that discredits and refutes religious beliefs, this is not the book for you. Mena is staunchly Christian, she feels a bit sorry for people who aren't, and by the end of the book that doesn't change. What changes is that she's able to keep her religious beliefs, but she no longer fears the unknown and so is able to open her mind to new ideas. But the book isn't without its criticisms of evangelical Christianity - it has plenty of those.

Visit the website for more info www.biblegrrrl.com

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