Reviewed by Carrie Spellman for TeensReadToo.com
Faith is an interesting thing. Is a person's faith best placed in ideas and beliefs? Is it best put in other people? Can't you do both?
1212 mainly follows the story of three young people: Blanche, Abel, and Etienne. They are extremely unlikely allies, leading a crusade of children from Europe to the Holy Land. Etienne is the one with the vision, literally. Abandoned by his mother, and left to his uncle's charity, Etienne is visited by a vision. A vision that tells him he will lead a crusade of children that will change the world. Etienne is a firm Catholic, and knows he cannot escape a calling from God. Abel is the first person to befriend and believe in Etienne. He encourages Etienne to believe in himself and carry on with his purpose. The truly strange part? Abel is Jewish. It may not seem so strange today, but back in Medieval times most religions didn't appreciate each other. Then again, maybe it's still pretty true. As the crusade grows in size Abel becomes a trusted friend and adviser to Etienne. And the more time passes, the guiltier he feels about keeping his true self a secret. Blanche is a Good Christian, a sect of Christianity that chooses to follow God, not the Pope. Consequently, they are being hunted down and persecuted. Blanche has seen her whole family, her whole town, burned to the ground. She joins the crusade because she believes in Etienne and his cause, but she hides her true self, too.
Both Abel and Blanche worry that Etienne will not accept them if he knows the truth. As time passes it becomes harder and more dangerous to conceal. There is some amount of animosity and competition between the two over Etienne's attention and affection, though they alone know the truth about each other.
Etienne's biggest concern, the thing that nearly ends his faith in his mission time and again, is the animosity of the Pope. The Pope refuses to recognize Etienne's vision or his Crusade. The Pope doesn't believe that Etienne could have had a "vision," and declares them all too young to Crusade. He orders them to stop. How long and how far can they go when it seems that so much is against them? And how true is a friendship based on a misconception?
Historically accurate and based on actual events, this book is a wealth of information and questions. I learned a lot about various religious histories. But, it also made me wonder about a lot of things. I don't know what I think about all of the "religious vision" occurrences, both in this book and in the world, but I think it's odd for someone to be able to say that one person's vision is valid and another's is not. Where exactly is that line? I think it's a great thing that people from different backgrounds and walks of life could all be brought together by an idea; it's just too bad that the whole thing could possibly be destroyed by a declaration of religious ties. It's even more disturbing to realize how little we've accomplished on that front in nearly 800 years.