Book: The Chosen One
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Number of Pages: 213
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has always lived in the compound with her three mothers, her twenty brothers and sisters (plus two more on the way), and her one father. Everyone's family is like that. They live in submission to the Prophet and devotion to God. They don't go outside the compound and they don't put themselves in the way of Satan, personified by TV, immodest clothing, and anything unrelated to the Scripture.
But recently, Kyra's discovered secret rebellions inside herself. She wants to play the piano, read books that aren't from the Bible, and choose who she wants to marry--preferably sweet and cute Joshua Johnson, only three years her senior. She hopes and prays that God will smile on her desires.
Then comes the news that she has been chosen as the seventh wife of her uncle, who is in his sixties. This isn't a request, but a command straight from the Prophet. Her father, Joshua, even the kindly bookmobile driver all do their best for her, but in the end, the only one who can save Kyra is Kyra herself.
Why Did I Hype?: Another book that's been all over. The ARC that I got had 6 full pages of assorted praise, plus the inside front cover.
Live-Up-to-the-Hype Score: 8/10
With this book, Carol Lynch Williams pretty much hits all the obligatory elements for the tale of a rebellious girl-child in an oppressive patriarchal culture. Secret reading? Check. Escalating brutality cloaked in religious dogma? Check. Unsuitable love interest that just causes more trouble when inevitably discovered? Check. Eventual rescue of self? Check.
She does it well, however, with strong characterizations and increasingly dark plot points. My favorite element was the way she shows, through the characters of Joshua and Father, how men and boys are as trapped in polygamist cultures as their mothers, wives, and sisters. Also, the warm family circle that surrounds Kyra makes her reluctance to leave and her fear of the lonely unknown more plausible than it otherwise might be. Kyra herself is a nearly pitch-perfect mixture of fear, rebellion, ambition, and love.
I could wish there would have been more examination of the element of faith in this novel, but you can't have everything, and really that's just my thing. With the current interest in polygamist cultures, this book isn't going to sit on the shelf for long.