by Carol Lynch Williams
Young Adult, 224 pages.
St. Martin’s Griffin (2009)
Kyra Leigh might be Chosen to wed her uncle, Hyrum, an Apostle in their fundamentalist religious sect, but his Choice is only the beginning of the toughest one she will ever make. A thirteen year old girl raised by three mothers among a brood of brothers and sisters, Kyra knows she has to obey Prophet Childs, whose messages come to their Compound directly from God.
But she knows a few other things, too. She knows that Joshua, a neighbor boy, has feelings for her which are deeper than those she sees in most plural marriages. She knows that the books Patrick brings by every Wednesday in his Mobile Library on Wheels do not contain the word of Satan like everyone says they do. She knows that just because Prophet Childs decrees something, it isn’t always right.
Kyra and her vulnerable, extremely human family are pitted against the cold and effective machine of Prophet Childs’s zealous hold on the community. Her uncle’s desire to take her as his seventh wife puts her in the eye of a controversy that results in death threats, beatings and near-constant surveillance. She must choose between giving in to his Choice and abandoning her home and family for the terrifying freedom of the real world.
When Kyra finally chooses, the reader can intimately feel the entire weight of the world on her shoulders. And there is no happy ending. There is only hope and, for what it’s worth, the noble knowledge that truth and faith don’t have to be contradictory, violent things. THE CHOSEN ONE is a poignant, gut-wrenching story of destiny, family and the search for self in the face of great obstacles. In these brief pages, Kyra takes the stand of her life, loses everything and I will never forget it. This book is one I highly, highly recommend.
For Readers: Kyra is a character who will remain with you. Invisible walls that feel stronger than any brick and mortar surround areas in everybody’s life. Williams’s honesty in writing this and Kyra’s great courage alone are worth the read. While there are a few violent or upsetting scenes, they’re crucial to the richness of the climax. One big issue here is women’s rights and gender roles. Under Prophet Childs’s watchful eye, women are second class citizens who are not allowed to act or think or speak for themselves. The brutal lessons here make this book even more unforgettable.
My galley came with a preview of the audiobook, which will be released on May 12th by Macmillan Young Listeners. Actress Jenna Lamia, from what I’ve heard so far, does a pitch-perfect version of Kyra. If you prefer listening to books, pick up a copy.
For Writers: An environment must be a character in your story. If it isn’t, you’re missing opportunities to bring out themes or manipulate the emotional impact of the work. Williams’s emotionally-charged settings are a masterpiece. From the real world, where Kyra and her family are ridiculed, to the Prophet’s office in the Temple, where danger crackles in the air, any writer can pick up the subtle yet unmistakable mood Williams sets. If your settings aren’t doing any thematic or emotional work for you, pick up THE CHOSEN ONE and see how it’s done.
I don’t think I can say this enough, but a writer can’t be afraid of consequences. Some writers tend toward unrealistic happy endings and neat topped-with-a-bow conclusions. In a lot of cases, that’s not lifelike. There are consequences for every action, good and bad, and, if you’ve done your job, your novel will have a lot of action. Don’t be afraid of putting your character in a difficult situation, it will make them more real to your readers. For one of the most emotionally raw, unsettling endings I’ve read lately — and one that hits all the right emotional buttons — read this book and see how oddly satisfying it manages to feel.