Thirteen-year-old Gentry feels trapped in a polygamous walled community ruled by the words of a prophet incarcerated in Texas.
Gentry and her older brother Tanner are excited to receive an invitation to play their violins at a local music festival, but when the Prophet calls to forbid women from leaving the compound, Gentry’s hopes are dashed. Tanner decides to sneak Gentry out to perform, but defying the Prophet carries consequences. Restrictions, harsh physical punishment, and ejection from the community are meted out at the whims of the leadership. Tanner and Gentry’s disobedience forces her family to make desperate decisions. Lifted straight from the headlines, Gentry’s tale is a harrowing reality for splinter groups of the LDS Church. Unfortunately, while the details are horrific, there is no attempt to qualify the judgment leveled against all Mormons. The story is compelling, but the use of stereotypes undercuts its power. The sadistic Prophet’s son, the pedophilic leader, and complicit women are predictable place holders for real characters. Gentry’s naiveté about the reality of the outside world is understandable, but she seems equally clueless about her own, all-white community. Violence against animals and children as well as sadistic treatment of a girl with Down syndrome might further make this a difficult read for younger children despite the publisher’s designation of a middle-grade audience for it.
Harrowing and realistic but slanted toward sensationalism. (Fiction. 12-14)