Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Chosen One

Williams, Carol Lynch. The Chosen One. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 2009.
[Book cover credit:]

Kyra is just a normal girl. She loves her family, especially her sister Laura who is also her best friend and Mariah, the baby. She loves to play the piano, and she is very good at it. She's a booknerd and eagerly awaits weekly visits from the county bookmobile. And she's in love with a boy. It's a secret, but what isn't when you're 13.

She doesn't love her uncle. Not at all. But she may be forced to marry him anyway.

This book was suspenseful, sad, surprising and, eventually, uplifting. Kyra has no problem with the polygamist compound she's grown up in, though she must sneak books in from the bookmobile as all books besides the Bible have been banned and burned. Her Mothers, all three of them, get along, and her father is loving and attentive in a healthy way, not the way normally publicized about Daddies in polygamist groups. This is all before her world shifts to what we've all seen on 20/20 specials. Before the Prophet orders her to marry her uncle, orders her to be the seventh wife of her father's older brother.

Given the slow, quiet, but sustained media attention to this topic, I was a bit worried about what I would find in this book. I've never read any of Williams' other books and know nothing of her reputation as an author. If I had, I might not have been so worried that I would find sensationalized child abuse in The Chosen One. That is not remotely what the reader encounters in this book. This book's strength is Kyra's voice, the voice that tells this story. Her concerns are those of an average 13 yr old, until her life takes that very not-average turn. The way that she deals with this, both internally and externally, seemed totally plausable and believable to me. The way Kyra comes to leave the compound was gripping, mostly because it's unclear whether or not she'll actually run until she does so. Kyra knows that running to save herself means leaving everything else behind, including her younger sisters who she cannot hope to save. Her anguish over this fact is heart-breaking.

I think what really threw me about this book is that I went into it thinking, "This will be my self-imposed break from sci-fi." It was, but it was a really bad choice of book to serve that purpose.

  • Here I, the reader, was plunked down into a world that I recognize, but that is completely different from my own (such as a world that is divided into 12 districts controlled by a single Capitol, like in The Hunger Games , or a world where you can hear everyone else's thoughts like in, The Knife of Never Letting Go).
  • The things that are happening in that world are unthinkable to me, but normal to the inhabitants of that world (such as a lottery that decides which children will die -Hunger Games-, or a law that allows parents to give their living teenagers up as organ donors, like in Unwind).
  • When the protagonist tries to escape or change that world, the Man comes down hard, making an example of her (like President Snow threatens to do to Katniss in Catching Fire which I'll review soon, or like Homeland Security does to M1k3y in Little Brother).
Except the world in The Chosen One exists today, though it is fictionalized in the book, not in some future that we all had to really screw up to make. It creeped me out, which it is supposed to, I guess.
Book source: Philly Free Library

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