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Growing Bookworms Newsletter: May 27

The Chosen One: Carol Lynch Williams

Book: The Chosen One
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Pages: 224
Age Range: 13 and up

The Chosen OneThe Chosen One left me shaking ... with fear, with horror, with frustration, with outrage. But it was beautiful, too. The Chosen One is one of those books that you finish, and then just sit there, thinking about it, staring off into space. 13-year-old Kyra lives in the compound of "the Chosen Ones". She is one of 21 children of her father, via three wives. Her three-mother family lives in a set of worn-out trailers, while the Prophet (the polygamous sect's supreme leader) and the Apostles (other leaders of the group) live in big, nice houses with air conditioning. The Chosen Ones live a life "protected" from the outside world. But evil lives there, too.

Kyra is a devoted daughter and sister. She is a girl with secrets. These include the books that she reads on the sly, from the mobile bookmobile, and the boy, Joshua, that she meets secretly, in the middle of the night. Both the books and her feelings for Joshua give Kyra ideas. And ideas are dangerous things, particularly for girls, in a society that considers women property. When Kyra learns that the Prophet has commanded her to marry her 60-year-old uncle, to be his seventh wife, she starts thinking about escape. But her love for her family binds her. Not to mention the fact that terrible things happen to Chosen Ones who don't obey.

The Chosen One is an inside look at religion gone awry. It's a demonstration of the ways that power can corrupt, and the price that people sometimes pay for their beliefs. It's a love story, too. Most of all, it's the story of a remarkable girl. Despite her upbringing, Kyra is someone who sees the moments of loveliness around her, from her developmentally disabled sister's smiles to the branches of a Russian Olive tree swaying in the wind. She's a person to whom books are as necessary as breathing, a girl who cries her eyes out over Bridge to Terebithia and identifies with Laura Ingalls. And, in part because she's seen the larger world through books, Kyra is someone who can't ignore it when she sees suffering that she knows is preventable. Here are a couple of quotes, to give you a feel for the book:

"I look past the crisscorssy brances of the Russian Olive toward our settlement. I can see most everything here, if I part the leaves. the lawns of the Prophet and the Apostles, the store, the Temple and the Fellowship Hall where we meet for school and Wednesday evening activities. I see it all. And nobody can see me.

"Mmm," I say, breathing deep and closing my eyes. It smells so good to be by myself here." (Page 6, ARC)

"...I have a horrible thought.

I see each of my sisters married to the oldest man in the Compound, Brother Nile Anderson. Married to him. He has to be 150 years old. In my head, I can see his spotted hands, yellowed nails, and those fat blue veins that look like they might pop any second.

This comes into my mind because of last night. Of course it does. Because that is what our lives are, I realize, holding on to my little sister.

We are here for the men." (Page 54, ARC)

Kyra is a girl in an impossible situation. She is unforgettable. She is brave. She is heartbreaking. The Chosen One has my highest recommendation, for teens and adults. Be sure to start it when you have time to read it straight through, because you won't want to put it down.

Publisher: Macmillan / St. Martins Griffin
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Far too many to list, but here are a few recent ones from my reader: Young Adult (and Kids) Book Central, Kids Lit, My Friend Amy, Book Muncher, Archimedes Forgets (more a discussion than a review, but with several additional links). Updated to add: Melissa Wiley had a different experience with this book, possibly colored by listening to the audio version, rather than reading the printed book. In addition to her thoughts on the book, this post includes interesting insights one negative of audiobooks.

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.