Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Atheist's Daughter: Review

When I was growing up, the best word to describe me was "precocious," though I think that was a misnomer. I was smart, yes, and older in maturity than I should have been, but I don't think there was anything inherently cute about me. I was a disturbed kid. I started reading Poe when I was in grade-school, and he spoke to me in a way that other authors just couldn't. When the rest of my class was having fun with cute comics and CS Lewis serials, I was memorizing "Annabel Lee" and being both repulsed and drawn to "The Black Cat."

I found that I loved Sci-Fi, and ate up Madeline L'Engel and Susan Cooper. I slowly but surely made my way towards Margaret Atwood and Isaac Asimov. I was onto Poul Andersen by my freshman year of high school, and the librarian introduced me to the Riftwar Saga by Raymond Feist, knowing I would love it.

My brother was really into Terry Brooks, and I snuck his "Magic Kingdom For Sale: Sold!" series one book at a time until he realized I was reading it, and openly allowed me to borrow any book I liked. It was actually a huge part of our relationship, because we hadn't grown closer as we grew older, and these books gave us something to talk about.

I found that I couldn't make myself like an author, such as Heinlein or Asimov. I just couldn't get into their books. I also found that just because a book was well-liked, such as Le Petite Prince or The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, that didn't automatically mean it was bad. It just meant that it appealed to more mainstream readers as well as Sci-Fi fans. I also learned to judge a book by its cover, or more specifically what the cover says about the book.

Now that I'm older, I'm branching out a lot more with my book selections, though I tend to stay close to Sci-Fi/Fantasy (or SF/F) genres, and I still find that YA fiction is better than just about anything else, George RR Martin notwithstanding. There seems to be a niche in the YA SF/F genre, though, that is becoming disturbing, and it encompasses the "Girl Hero" aspect. There are so few books in this category that are actually worth reading, and "The Hunger Games" trilogy pretty much makes up all of the books worth reading.

I don't have to expound on what's wrong with Twilight, since there are so many other people who have done just that, but even the Wicked Lovely saga by Melissa Marr is missing a lot of actual empowerment by substituting boyfriends for actual self-worth, though it is a good set of books so far.

The Atheist's Daughter, however, is sort of...bigger than these other books. It's different. The premise is Twilighty, only without the heroine finding mindless killing machines sexy. The idea is Wicked Lovely-ish, only without the heroine joining the ranks of the "other world" in order to change things from within. Instead, the heroine, Kristin, is her own stand-up self much like Katniss Everdeen, and she is not interested in becoming friends with much of anyone, let alone monsters.

Kristin has a special power much like all heroines in these sorts of stories. She is able to see when someone lies. Their mouths literally disappear, and it scares the crap out of her to the point that she was actually put in a mental institution for a while. The mental institution made Kristin somewhat of an outcast, but what was funny to me is that when her friend Gideon tells his father, the town pastor, that he's going to the prom with Kristin, Pastor objects with, "the atheist's daughter?" because that's so much worse than a mental issue. I really love it.

When I reviewed this book on my facebook page, the authors actually commented, and I have to say that they're pretty cool people (yes, Renee Harrell is a nom de plume). Some of the issues of note were: lying. Lying and not lying has a lot of mythological and historical significance. In times before literacy was widespread, a man's word was literally his bond. In Scotland, deals are still made binding by a handshake. Kristin can tell when someone lies, and if she lies herself, her mouth also disappears. The creatures she's up against...I suppose they're vampires after a fashion, but they're also sort of not. They worship deities of chaos and even make sacrifices to them, and the deities respond. I think there's this idea that if something is evil (and evil can totally be subjective in this book, depending on whose side you're seeing) that lying and cheating are just inherent in their nature, but lying is so important to not do for these creatures. Lying is bad. They feel and see the effects that Kristin feels and sees. The truth is that in lots of old religions, and even into new religions such as Wicca and neo-Paganism, lying is taboo. It robs you of your power. If you are a witch and you say you aren't, then you risk losing your power.

Next, I noted that this book is not without religion. The creatures talk to and are responded to by deities. Kristin has a physical reaction to religion, she can't even walk into a church because the church itself will repel her from its premises. The creatures note that most people like Kristin (so we know there are more like her!) don't survive in society as long as Kristin has, which makes me wonder if her mother's atheism is somehow connected to Kristin's continued survival and presence outside of psych wards. And while we're on the subject of Kristin's mother's unbelief, let's just say that she has very good reason for not believing in any God or god or greater power of any kind.

Lastly, I just have to say that this is perhaps the book that my reading journey has brought me to. There are two more in the works, and I absolutely cannot wait to read the heck out of them. Kristin is on her way to the top of the list, and I hope that people can get past the title which has that taboo word "atheist" in it, and really get into this saga.

No comments:

Post a Comment