Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer Reading Review of Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature

I've gotten a jump on my reading list for this summer,  and my list is long.  However, I am determined that this is the summer, that I get to read everything I set out to do.  We shall see if I rise to the occasion.   I've decided that I wanted to check out some of the YA (Young Adult) titles that were nominated for literary awards.  Whenever a book or movie wins an award, I have to check it out for myself to see if I agree that the work merits an award or not.  
The first book that I have chosen to comment on is " Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature" by Robin Brande.  Ms. Brande first novel has just received the Michigan Library Association's "Thumbs Up!" Award.   The plot of the story is about Mena, a ninth grader,  who begins high school as the freshmen biggest class outcast. She has done something so hideous, that her friends in the  youth group hates her, her pastor hates her and even her parents hate her.  Everything changes when her biology teacher, Mrs. Shepard  pairs her up with lab partner Casey Connor and a lesson on evolution changes how Mena views her world.
      Ms. Brande's attempts to bring together science and religion is admirable, but does not make a convincing argument. Especially when she uses the Parable of the Five Talents to prove that Jesus believed in natural selection or survival of  the fittest.   The characters who are "Christian" , including  Mena's parents, who agree with the youth group's actions of bullying their daughter,  are made out to be single minded and hypocritical. However, on the flip side, anyone who does not agree with the Christian, are characters to be upheld and admired.  For example, Ms.Shephard rants on and on about her rights under the constitution to teach the curriculum because of separation of church and state,  she LOVES biology because it offer facts (as if religion does not) and Darwin's theory is flawless.  Near the end of the story, Brande sneaks in the fact that Ms. Shephard is indeed a woman who believes in God but will not say that to her students in class, because it would be crossing the precarious line drawn in the sand by the Supreme Court.  
Mena is a wonderful character, because the reader believe her feelings are authentic throughout the story. I almost forgot!  You are probably wondering what was the hideous act that Mena did to get everyone in her universe mad at her?  She wrote a note to a boy in her youth group telling him she was sorry that everyone was picking on him because he was "gay".  This note starts a chain reaction of lawsuits against the church, the parents of the children who ridiculed the boy, and Mena's parents because the boy almost succeeds at committing suicide. Although Ms Brande tries to keep the suspense up until halfway through the book, it is obvious to the reader that the letter was about a gay person.  Why else would the Christians be in an uproar?  Too bad the supporting cast is so flat!
At the end of the book the author does explain where she drew her inspiration from and it is obvious she found sources that agree with each other, thus producing a story that is very one sided.  Would I recommend this book?  Yes, but not enthusiastically.  Also, I would not take the story too seriously because of the lack of strong supporting characters around Mena.  

Till Next time .... happy reading! 
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