Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande

I recommend this book for: grade 7 and up

Mena is an only child who used to go to church with her parents and all of her friends. Then she got kicked out because of something she did - something she was sure was right, but the result is that the church is being sued by a young man and his parents. No longer welcomed by her church family, largely ignored by her disappointed parents, and persecuted by the youth group that made up her circle of friends (they call her Judas), Mena is not enjoying the beginning of her high school career. One bright spot turns out to be biology class, which is taught by the brilliant Ms. Shepherd, and where her lab partner is a smart, funny, and pretty cute boy whose biggest problem with her is that she's never seen Lord of the Rings (sorcery isn't allowed in her house).

And then Ms. Shepherd begins the evolution unit, and the church group decides to fight against it. As the drama unfolds in Mena's classroom she has to choose where she stands on science and faith, how close to get to Casey and his family, and how to relate to her parents in the aftermath of her big decision.

What made this book for me? The characters were wonderful, from nerdy/cute Casey and his bossy, activist sister to the youth group girl who wears her Jesus Freak shirt two sizes too small to show off her chest. Mena's narrative voice is dead on, funny but making you feel for her at the same time. Watching Mena's life evolve is fantastically satisfying, and the themes of questioning faith and friendships are applicable to the lives of many teens.

The pros. The first two chapters are excerpted after the review, and if they don't make you want to read this book, I don't know what will!

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