Sunday, July 6, 2008

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature

By Robin Brande

Mena fervently believes in God. Her entire life has been embraced by the Church to which her family belongs. But when people from her Church Youth Group, at their pastor’s instigation, harass a young gay student to suicidal depression, Mena feels alone and guilty. She writes the student a beautiful letter of apology. Then her life unravels.

The young man and his family use her letter as evidence in their lawsuits against the Church collectively and against all the families of her Youth Group personally. Mena is ostracized and bullied by her former friends and excluded from her home life by her parents. They break her heart. But in doing so, they also unintentionally thrust her into the world outside her Church and open her mind.

Mena needs to adapt and find a way forward on her own. Cautiously, as she begins High School, she makes new friends, experiences a sweet first romance and begins to judge new ideas for herself. The most provocative of these are those presented by her science teacher, Ms. Shepard, who insists on teaching facts, not opinion. When the curriculum moves into evolution Mena’s classmates alert her ex-pastor who instigates a new hate campaign-- this one on behalf of the ideas of Intelligent Design and against the Theory of Evolution. The confrontation spreads at school, at Church, through the press, Online, at home, and inside Mena’s thoughts.

Eventually Mena affirms her belief in god. But she also sees her adaptation into a larger social environment as one that enables her to be honest with her parents and herself, as one that makes her more capable with her talents, and one that brings her loyal and varied friends. Her life opens.

This is an exciting book.

Reviewed by Vivian

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