When I got an email asking me if I wanted a review copy of The Chosen One, I was pleased. Then, I thought about what it meant to read and review a new release that has gotten favorable early reviews. Ive given this real thought and effort. I look forward to hearing if you find something useful in my review.
The Chosen One is a sympathetic tale. Its about 13-year-old Kyra who has been told she must marry her 60-year-old uncle, an Apostle among the Chosen Ones. The story is the archetype of a clear victim and bus load of bad guys. In this case, theyre church leaders, nasty old men who want child brides. Its about a practice that the majority of society frowns upon- polygamy. All this adds up to a pretty straightforward tale of personal courage, harrowing action and a hopeful ending. The expectations are formed before you even begin the read. While I expected a tearjerker I also hoped for depth, some layers or revelations about the faith and its members. What the author provides are secondary characters who add additional opportunities for the reader to sympathize: a budding romance busted up, a miscarriage and Kyras family threatened. Speaking of secondary characters, Kyra has two older brothers. Where are they in all this? Why introduce these characters but not give them roles in the novel?
The contemporary story mirrors what has been published already about fringe religious communities. While Kyras point-of-view is honest, she provides no insights or an intimate view of the faith which would help the reader understand why followers embrace the faith. The story never gets complicated. Kyra is a sympathetic character. You want her to escape and she does. But emotion alone cannot carry a novel. Not for this reader. Kyra can play Mozart, but this story fails to rise above more than a childrens song. There is no duplicity, no shades of good and evil. There is only a single note: root for Kyra. The entire novel focuses on how Kyra feels and how she escapes.
One reviewer commented that she doubted Kyra could have used a cell phone so easily, but we know that the sect did not shun technology. They had computers and wide screens in the offices. Families didnt have access but its not far-fetched to think theyve never used them. They werent always closed off. And Patrick, the driver who tries to help her gives Kyra pretty easy directions to how to use it. More troubling for me is the escape scene. We know from Kyra that the God Squad has killed members or run them off before, and being a closed community they could get away with it, but Patrick is an outsider, a man with a family. He is a county employee. His absence would draw attention from authorities. Why would the God Squad treat Kyra differently than Ellen the adulterer or the boys theyve dropped off in the desert to die? Kyra has been warned, beaten and her family threatened. By the time she attempts the escape why isnt she killed? Because not killing her means a happy ending and that feels grossly contrived to me.
Lastly, the transitions between scenes often felt stilted or abrupt. The additional white spacing was not an effective segue to new thoughts or scenes. At times I had to re-read the last line of preceding paragraphs to see if I missed a transition. Stylistically, the writing is competent but there arent any memorable lines and the construction is not impressive. The inner dialogue and brief accounts of past memories are either too brief or awkward. They add little. The Chosen One does tug your heartstrings. If you enjoy a tearjerker and emotion is enough, youll enjoy this. I had hoped for more.
This is not a book that will be easy to forget. Told in the voice of 13-year old Kyra who has lived her life in an isolated polygamous community called The Chosen. This is the way her life has always been and being rather happy she has never questioned her life. So you have to put up with too many moms and the lack of privacy, that is a small price to pay for happiness. That is until she has been chosen to be the next wife of her sixty year old uncle.
This is no longer the life she wants, she wants to be able to choose her own future. A future that includes books and music and love. But the God Squad has different plans and now Kyra must find a way out. After what they have done to others that have disobeyed Kyra is terrified not only for herself but for her family. Her choices will affect them all. Is this a risk she is willing to take? With the help of those that love and care for her, is she willing and able to start a new life.
Told in an astonishing voice, you feel Kyra's fears and trepidation. When all you know is about to change, can you change with it and not lose the person that you are? Wonderful story of heartbreak and longing.
I was immediately drawn into the story from page one. Kyra's life in the closed off community is vividly told, and in fact is told so well, I found emotions absolutely bubbling to the surface. Imagine living in a community where you are not allowed to read what you want to, go where you want to without supervision and marry who you want to. Imagine not only not getting to choose who to marry, but being told you must marry when you are still no more than a child. All of these scenarios are deftly captured in Carol Lynch Williams' book with such clarity and truth. Each character good and bad are so full and fleshed out, you feel as if you are reading someone's truth.
I strongly recommend this book. It is a compelling read involving a difficult story. It pulls you in and makes you face a situation that is not pretty. The story made me uncomfortable at times and angry at others. It is hard to say that I enjoyed it, because it was a difficult story, but I walked away feeling changed somehow and hopeful.
I've had this book on my to be read pile for a while. I find polygamist colonies interesting and had heard that this book gives a fair opinion of those family groups as part of the story. I will say this wasn't necessarily a fun read, but it was well done and heart wrenching. Overall I found it interesting and it makes me wonder how "true to life" this story actually is; it is supposed to be a fictional account about a girl that escaped from a polygamist home.
13 year old Kyra lives in a colony of polygamists with her mother and plethora of siblings. Her mother is the third wife and her father alternates between wives. Then one day the Prophet issues a decree: Kyra will marry her father's brother...who is her uncle and ancient, she will be wife number seven. Adding to the distress of marrying her uncle are the strict rules of her lifestyle, the books she sneaks in to read from the Mobile Library, her mother Sarah going through a very difficult pregnancy, and Kyra's attraction to a boy her age who wants to Choose her as his one and only wife.
This is a very well written book; as times it is a bit unconventional in that there are short sentences that represent random thoughts flying out of Kyra's head. However, the writing style was very appropriate to the book. It is an incredibly engaging book and will have you on the edge of your seat wondering if Kyra will try to escape and if she does, will she make it out alive.
It is also an intensely emotional book that will have you in tears and incredibly angry at parts. It is full of disturbing references to rape, incest, and beatings; although only the beatings are covered in full detail. There is a particular scene where Kyra's 8 month old sister is submersed in ice water until she stops breathing, just because the 8 month old was crying at night and kept the neighbors awake...this was incredibly disturbing and made me angry at this book and at the fact that these things happen (not just in polygamist communities, but in general).
This book really stands out in that it also pictures the love that can exist in this type of community. All of Kyra's mothers, siblings, and her father really work to have a loving household. They don't argue a lot and work to make their home a happy one. When it is announced that Kyra will marry her uncle; her father actually goes to petition the Prophet to try and change his mind. This family of Kyra's really does care about each other.
Williams does an excellent job of characterization too. Kyra is brave and you feel her heartbreak as she contemplates running away and leaving her ailing mother and loving sisters behind, you feel her excitement when she manages to smuggle a new book in to read. You also feel the hopelessness of her father as he tries to do right by his family; he is threatened to have his wives and children given to more disciplined fathers if he can't bend Kyra to the Prophet's will.
Does the book end well? Well I can't give it away, but let's say it ends realistically and abruptly. It left me wishing for just a couple more chapters expanding on Kyra's decisions at the end.
Overall this was an excellent book that gives incite into the positives and horrifying negatives that can happen in a polygamist community. It is also about a young girl's choice between family and herself; between freedom and slavery to her cult. Was it a fun read? No, it is a tough, emotionally wrenching read that will leave you sad and angry and all out drained. I recommend it for anyone with interest in this subject matter, or young adult readers. As an adult I found it fascinating but it is not something I will ever read again.
I was totally surprised with how incredibly awesome this book was. I was completely pulled into the story and had emotional connections with the characters. You felt like you were right with her in the story, biting your nails to see what happens next. It was a really great book!