Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Review: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams

The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
Page Count: 213.
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
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Kyra is a thirteen, soon to be fourteen, year old girl living in a gated, secluded, polygamist community ruled by the seemingly omniscient Prophet. Though she lives in a community commanded by God, Kyra has plenty of secrets. Every week she walks to the edge of the community to check out books from the Ironton County Mobile Library, and she hides and reads them in her favorite tree-an act forbidden by the Prophet. And then: there's Joshua. A cute boy she meets in private and who she wishes she could choose for herself. She dreams of someday becoming his first wife, since a man needs three to get into heaven, but her dreams are shattered when she appears in a Prophet's vision. The Prophet declares that she is to be wed in four her sixty-year old uncle who already has six wives. Kyra then has to decide if she can force herself to love her uncle in order to stay with her family, or if she would rather attempt an escape to the Satan-filled world outside of the community--a feat that is rarely successful for anyone who dare try escape.

My sins.
A plan. Books. And a boy. 
There's a boy. 
Oh, I am carrying the weight of what I have done. But no one seems to notice. 

I am fascinated by all kinds of weird things, polygamous communities included, and that was what drew me to pick up The Chosen One. Even though these secluded communities give me the creeps in general, I was not expecting this novel to frighten me the way that it did. Prophet Childs, the leader of The Chosen Ones community, was a villain unlike any I've read recently. Prophet Childs gained his title when his father died, and Kyra and her family can remember the 'before' time. They were allowed to read, and the rules were not quite so strict. Their new Prophet is notorious for doling out harsh punishments to men, women, and children alike. He also has the tendency of forcing young girls to marry the old men in the community. Prophet Child's also lives in the most lavish house while the rest of his disciples live in trailers. He also claims to see everything through the eyes of God, given his Prophet status and all, which gave a Big Brother feel to Kyra's narrative as she visits the bookmobile (which sounds awesome, by the way), and meets up with Joshua--a boy her age and who loves her. 

For a minute, I think I might scream every bit of life out of me. But I bite my tongue. 
"The ceremony will still be," Prophet Childs says. 
"I won't do it," I say.
The Prophet looks back out his big window. I wonder how the God Squad will get Joshua out of this building without being seen. Or maybe they don't care who sees what they've done. Of course they don't. Standing here, I remember more than one person paraded down the street for others to see. To teach us all a lesson. Sometimes those people showed up in church meetings. Sometimes we never saw them again. Not a lot of people. Mostly The Chosen Ones do what they are told. But I'm not so sure I can. 

Williams also showed a lot of interesting forms in The Chosen One. In times of high stress for Kyra, the traditional paragraphs melt away and what happens is free form poetry. Fragments of sentences take up whole lines and beautifully show the tense, quick bursts of thought that cross Kyra's mind. In these tense moments, though, Kyra tends to repeat the same thing to herself, along the lines of "I will be a seventh wife. My husband will be fifty years older than me. My husband will be my father's brother." At first, it was a heartbreaking reminder of what her life is threatened to be. After a couple more times though, the repetition lost it's intensity for me and the force behind it fell a little short. 

There's part of me that wants to run out to Dragon Girl. Grab her by her black hair. Throw her on the ground and punch her face in. But what about everyone else? Would I have to smack the cashier who shakes her head after looking at us? Or pinch the woman with her three small children after she hurries them all past? And what about the woman cutting large swaths of material, the way she keeps staring, not even bothering to look away when I meet her eyes. I'd have to beat up this whole town for hurtin Laura, embarrassing my mothers. 

I felt claustrophobic in The Chosen Ones community. There is a fence around the perimeter that keeps everyone out, including reporters who occasionally hound the children for an interview about the polygamous lifestyle within. Prophet Childs has the 'God Squad' on his side, the internal police force that administer punishment to those who don't obey the Prophet and track down those who attempt to escape. Kyra's mother is also having a horrible pregnancy, one that she knows can be eased from the books she has read. However, Prophet Childs is strongly against outside help. Hence the God Squad. As for women who are having awful pregnancies like Kyra's mother? They have sinned and deserve the fate of their babies or themselves. SO SCARY. I felt trapped reading this with Kyra, and feared for Kyra as she worked through her decision of possible escape. 

The Chosen Ones is a suspenseful read full of tension, thanks in part to an evil villain who made me glad that I would never have to be a member of this community. The stakes in Kyra's family are high, and we root for her the whole way to carve out a life that's better for her and her siblings. 

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

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