Jacob’s faith and commitment to his cult’s restrictive lifestyle waver when he meets two outsider teens who introduce ideas from the outside world.
Cult leader Father Grace’s fire-and-brimstone preachings about Armageddon require that followers adhere to an ascetic lifestyle. But Jacob’s burgeoning sexuality and his attraction to Lynna, a Worldly girl on the neighboring ranch who provides him with tantalizing hints of life beyond the cult’s chain-link fence, spur him to begin scrutinizing the cult leadership. Jacob’s misgivings grow when Tobias, a troubled new arrival to the cult, bluntly and relentlessly calls the leadership and lifestyle of the cult “bullshit.” Though readers may sympathize with Jacob’s crisis of faith, their overall engagement with the novel may suffer from Hautman’s reliance on popular stereotypes of cult lifestyles. Many of his worldbuilding tools, from the terminally boring food to Father Grace’s polygamy and fixation on teenage wives, have been explored in books for teens before. Hautman does resist painting the world beyond the cult as perfect—politicians are corrupt and Lynna’s uncle attempts to molest her—but these harsh realities only make Jacob’s alternative of life outside of the cult sound as grim as life inside.
Ultimately, this is no more than a surface-level exploration of nontraditional religious faith. (Fiction. 14-18)