ARMAGEDDON SUMMER

The format—a story told from alternating viewpoints, with a few letters, radio and e-mail transcripts, and other realia thrown in—is becoming familiar, but two practiced writers employ the tactic and run with it in this page-turner. Marina loves her family, her faith, and her little brothers, but she is horrified when she discovers that her mother’s favorite preacher, Reverend Beelson, has just declared that the world will end on July 27, 2000; in another family, Jed accompanies his father to the mountaintop where Beelson says they will await the end of the world and prepare, as 144 of the faithful, to begin anew. They stockpile supplies, dig latrines, live in tents, and build an electrified fence to keep out everyone else. Yet these details are background to the real story of Jed and Marina’she is a Believer, and he is not—as they wrestle with faith, skepticism, family attachments, and their interest in each other. The authors pull off the remarkable feat of making the sacred tangible, of delineating what it means to believe. Beelson is a particularly rounded character: a man who believes that God has spoken and that he must obey. The harsher aspects of fundamentalist religion are not glossed over, and the final conflagration is right out of the headlines. Jed and Marina have epiphanies great and small, and they emerge whole, still searching for belief in its myriad aspects, and for each other. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-15-201767-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1998

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EVOLUTION, ME & OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE

Mena Reece’s freshman year is not turning out as planned; she’s been shunned by her friends because she blew the whistle on them. They all belong to an ultra-conservative church (Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings are banned from her reading list). Suspecting a fellow classmate to be gay, the group harassed him and after his attempted suicide, Mena sent an apologetic letter naming names. The boy’s family sues the church and everyone blames Mena for the disruption, especially her parents. Then Mena is paired with Casey Connor, a science geek, and her life takes a positive turn. When the science class begins the unit on evolution, Mena’s church insists Intelligent Design be included. As the church ramps up its demands, shy Mena finds her voice as Bible Grrrl, “defender of truth in biblical citations.” Suddenly, Bible Grrrl’s opinions are hot. Casey’s friendship allows Mena to question her conservative upbringing, and the fact that he really likes her helps her outlook immensely. An appealingly humorous take on themes classic and new. (Fiction. 12-14)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-375-84349-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2007

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THE DARK LIGHT

From Newth (The Abduction, 1989), a dense, unusual novel about Tora, 13, who is dying of leprosy in a hospital in 19th- century Bergen, Norway. When Tora contracts the horrible disease, she is yanked from her family’s farm and sent to spend the remainder of her life at a leper hospital in Bergen. It’s a wretched place, where the ill wail in agony from sores and lost limbs, and cry out at night in desperation and hunger. Tora, one of the more able patients, helps tend to others, and in the process, bonds with the most cruel and miserable patient, Mistress Dybendal, who teaches Tora how to read; reading becomes Tora’s sole comfort, giving her the courage to accept her condition. The subject matter is uncommonly intriguing, and the writing evocative, although some of the relationships are troubling: A childhood friend and soul mate, Endre, is presented as a major character and then fades away, while Tora’s father, hardly a presence at all, plays a vital role at the end. More authentically depicted are Tora’s revelations, forgiveness, and innate goodness; many passages are emotionally harrowing, such as the scene when her feet are amputated. Newth’s work is compelling, often heartbreaking, and more than once, triumphant. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 24, 1998

ISBN: 0-374-31701-1

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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