The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly - Stephanie Oakes

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust.

And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

This Morris Award finalist is a solid debut novel, philosophically complex, brutal and raw in its examination of cult life and the impact of false prophets on people who want to believe in something greater than themselves. Minnow Bly has lost her hands, has kicked a young man until half of his face is caved in, and is now in a juvenile detention facility, slowly revealing the joys and the depths of despair that she faced while living in the woods. Through revelations to her cellmate and an FBI agent, Minnow discloses how she lost her hands, how the Community burned to the ground, and ultimately, who killed the Prophet.

Oakes is a talent, there is no doubt about that. The narrative is compelling, emotionally disquieting, and ultimately hopeful. That being said, there are a few threads of the overall arc that I wish had been more thoroughly explained in the end. There are questions about Minnow's family that I didn't feel were as explored as they could have been. Her friend Jude and his father are also important, but I felt that Jude's story fizzled to a degree during the final chapters of the book.

The relationship between Minnow, the FBI agent, and her cellmate (Angel), were the most compelling part of the text, to me, and I found myself becoming more invested in those moments of sharing and philosophizing than even the already intriguing backstory of Minnow's time in the Community. I would Highly Recommend this novel, without a doubt, to teens, teen librarians, High School librarians, and parents. Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson will find themselves captivated by this book. Do yourself a favour, though, and pick it up ASAP!


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