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MIRACLEVILLE by Monique Polak

MIRACLEVILLE

By Monique Polak

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: April 1st, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-55469-330-6
Publisher: Orca

Sixteen-year-old Ani, devout, straitlaced and anxious, could not be more different from her impious, free-spirited, sexually active 15-year-old sister, Colette. Ani takes after her mother, who runs Saintly Souvenirs, a tourist shop in the pilgrim town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec; Colette is more like their nonbelieving dad. When Ani's mom is paralyzed in an accident, Ani turns to Father Francoeur, an old friend of her mother's newly returned from abroad. But Father Francoeur and Ani's mom have a shared past, and Ani's family is not quite as it seems. It would be a better story without religion. The basilica setting and the pilgrims coming in hope of a miracle are interesting, and it's clear they're intended to mirror Ani's family, but, as it is portrayed here, faith is more platitudes and glow-in-the-dark Jesus statues than a changing holy force. Take away God, and both story and characters would seem more real and less distracted. When their father demands, "What about the God you love so much?...Where is He now, when you really need Him?" it feels like Catholic paint-by-numbers. This tale falls into an old trap: Good-girl Ani is not well-developed enough to be wholly sympathetic, while Colette, the miscreant, is the star. There are better books about religious identity out there; try The Possibilities of Sainthood, by Donna Freitas (2008), for a start. (Fiction. 14 & up)