Sunday, July 17, 2011

Book review: The Chosen One

The Chosen One
What do you do when you're forced to make the one decision that could cost you everything that you've ever known and loved?

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (St. Martin's Griffin)
Kyra is a 13-year old teen living in an isolated and polygamous community. 

In all the time that she's been living in the enclosed district, she's never thought much about the fact that her father has three wives, or that she has twenty brothers and sisters.

She's grown up adhering to every rule that the Prophet (the leader of the community) has imposed on them and has learnt never to ask any questions or challenge the community about the iron-fisted manner with which it is governed.

... at least not until she discovers the wonderful world of books that are forbidden to her community.

And when she starts developing feelings for boy within the community, a boy she meets in secret and hopes to choose for her own by own free will one day, Kyra knows that it's only a matter of time before her luck runs out and both secrets are discovered.

When the Prophet pays her family a visit and decrees that Kyra has been selected to become the seventh wife of her cruel, sixty-year old uncle, suddenly her secrets don't seem half as important as the decision that she may be forced to make - a decision that could mean her freedom, but could also mean losing everything she's always held dear. 

Review:
I'm not entirely sure where to begin with a novel that I've put off reviewing for so long. For one, the content of the book is rather harrowing, and the fact that the protagonist of this book is merely 13-years old, certainly got to me more than I expected it would.

The subject of polygamy; polygamy cults exploiting women and children in particular, is something that certainly doesn't make for easy or very light reading.

As someone who doesn't necessarily consider herself to be an ardent feminist, having to read about how Kyra and the women in this community were treated, definitely brought out varying degrees of emotions that ranged from blistering rage and heartbreak, to complete and utter despair.

I think if I had to start somewhere, the best place I would start, is by saying that this book is an acquired read.

I, for one, certainly had trouble connecting with the story at first. The writing is stark, simplistic and accurately reflects the bleak settings described in the novel.

It's also writing that won't necessary appeal to fans of lyrical prose, which is why it took some time for me to get used to it.

I first thought Kyra's voice sounded rather stilted and had trouble connecting to her character and plight.

After reading so many YA novels with characters that are much older than Kyra - it took me a while to realise that, actually, Carol actually does a fantastic job capturing the voice of a 13-year old without it coming off as being pretentious. Kyra is an incredibly brave heroine.

Trapped in an environment not of her choosing, we bare witness as she comes to the realisation that living in such a stifling community, despite the fact that she's with her family, is not all that it's being made out to be. 

Her voice is young, curious and strong - and watching her come unto her own, developing her own voice in spite of all her fears, and being brave enough to try and pursue what she wants, knowing what she could lose - endeared her to me on a very deep level.

We as readers get to witness her falling in love for the first time and have to suffer through the pains she has to endure trying to hide her blossoming feelings for Joshua, the boy in the community she lives within.

The religious leaders in the community don't make this any easier for her, and even though her loving family do all they can to help, at the end of the day, the Prophet's word is law. 

This aspect of the novel is another aspect that I found disturbing and drives home the fact that there are so many people out there who use religion as a tool to justify their own perverted and twisted reasoning behind doing what they do.

The leaders are cruel, especially Kyra's Uncle, who firmly believes in beating women into submission and there is one scene in particular which left me reeling with the utter cruelty of the action.

Reading books like these are not very easy, and even though it's only 213 pages long, this novel has so many layers to it, that trying to highlight one is a difficult feat because each new point, brings up another. 

What I can say though, is that this is not only a book that will take you out of your comfort zone and leave you reeling with the sheer force of all that unfolds in the novel, but it's also a novel that is hopeful in the midst of the darkness that Kyra is forced to endure.

It's a novel about not only overcoming fear but about being brave enough to take the risk in making a decision that could lead you to unknown paths, even if it means leaving behind everything you've ever known.

Most of all, it's a novel that will stay with you for a good couple of days after you've read it.

7 comments:

ComaCalm said...

I'm about to take this off of my shelf and add it to the pile of books I plan to read tis week, thank you! :)

ComaCalm's Corner

Aisle B said...

It does sound like a hard hitting book in the wake of everything we hear about polygamous rites for girls who have no voice.

I have a memoir that I've set aside and it pretty much seems to follow the same scenario as The Chosen One.

Jarring but inevitably both touch on the abuses of power by the Elders on their potential teen brides.

Strange is it not that even in today's time, we still hear about the atrocities - crimes on young girls - making them brides of men old enough to be their fathers or worst yet their grandfathers.

It's a Book Thing said...

Great review as always! *Bows at Tammy's feet*

Have a great Monday!!!!

Jan von Harz said...

Wow sounds like a real emotional story. The protagonist sounds amazing and I love the tie in of the book helping her discover the world outside her community. Great review.

GABY said...

Seems like an intense book. Great review, I have never been interested in this book until now.

Leanna (Daisy Chain Book Reviews) said...

This one does sound harrowing. I'm not sure it would really be the book for me as I am all about the light and fluffy right now, and also I am not really a fan of books that deal with religion/cults of any type.

Great review by you, all the same! :)

Susan said...

I agree with you that this is one of those reads that stays with you for a long time. Unlike you, though, I didn't have an ounce of trouble getting into it - I found it completely engrossing right from the start.