Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Not Your Mom's Escaping-a-Cult Novel

If you put a cult in your book, I'll give it a shot.  Netgalley gave me Escape from Eden, by Elisa Nader, and hey, cult book!  Let's roll with it.

And roll we did, on a freaking coaster.  This was NOT what you expect from a book about a cult.  And while I can only give it a 2 for plausibility, I'll give it a 5 for avoiding cliches, and a solid 4 around the teenaged lust/romance (which is EXCELLENT; I'm hard to impress with teenaged romance).  In the afterword, first-time author Nader refers to writing the afterword to your own novel as "crazypants crazy."  I have only to add: yes, that pretty much sums it up.

Mia lives on a compound in the South American jungle where the Flock has followed their leader, the Reverend.  From page one, Mia knows this place is messed up and wants out--right away we're off script from my experience with cult books.  You've got the Leaving Fishers variety that shows you how someone gets sucked in, and you've got the Gated variety (very good book, by the way) that shows you how someone realizes that their bucolic community is really a mess.  Right away, though, you have to throw those paradigms out the window; Mia seems to be the only one who notices that the Reverend is a disgusting, self-righteous creature, but she wants out.

It's not that easy, of course.  She's lived here for six years, since she was 10, and her only family, her mother and brother, live here and are determined to stay.  Plus, they're in the middle of the jungle on a guarded compound.  So mostly Mia looks for opportunities, makes plans, works in the kitchen, sneaks time with her drawing pad, waits to get called to the elite Prayer Circle, and considers how she feels about courting with Octavio, her friend Juanita's brother.  You know, business as usual for your modern cult teen.

Then a new family shows up, and the hot 17-year-old son, Gabriel, refuses to bend to the ways of the Flock.  He's vocal and angry and very sexy, and Mia's drawn to him.  Right here is where the book could have lost me, but didn't.  I mean, Mia's 16 and there's a  hot boy who's an outsider like she feels, and she does appropriate things with that.  But her mother, her brother, her friends, and hey, the whole escaping the cult thing are much more real than the buzz she gets from talking to Gabriel.  SO glad to hear that.

Now, I can't tell you too much about the plot, because like I said, it gets all CRAZYPANTS.  And yeah, it's implausible, but so are all those TV shows I watch.  There's way more than meets the eye going on in the cult, and Mia's task becomes not to escape, but to save the whole Flock--her family, her community--who don't want to be saved.  (If I was a gif sort of person there would be a gif of a roller coaster here.  I've never used one and I'm afraid of the intellectual property implications.  Use your imaginations, kids.)

So there's so many twists, and a car chase in the jungle, and drugs that modern pharmacology has yet to imagine, and just enough pauses for breathing room, and my GOD it's hot in the jungle--absolutely oppressive.  I won't promise you that this book will move you, or change your life.  But I will say that I didn't see it coming, and I didn't know where it would go.  As close as I will ever come to actually riding on a roller coaster.

(Also?  I pictured Gabe looking like Logan Echolls from Veronica Mars, which I am currently gulping down (the show, not Logan Echolls.  Get your mind out of the gutter).  But yeah, that was nice.  Now, go watch Veronica Mars.  Go on, right now.  Go.)

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