Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review: Me, Evolution, and Other Freaks of Nature

Book: Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande 

Summary: Mena told a secret, a secret which got her church sued, enraged her friends, and deeply disappointed her parents. Now, as Mena starts high school, she feels completely alone. When she begins to become friends with lab partner Casey, she must try to reconcile her desire to make friends with her desire to please her parents and follow her God. Her beliefs are only tested further as her science teacher begins the unit on evolution. Suddenly, Mena is caught up in a battle between evolutionists and creationists, between Christians and atheists, between church and state, and between her own desires and her own beliefs.


I want to teach this book one day. I want to share it with high school students. I want them to debate the same things that Mena had to debate. I want them, Christian or atheist or other, to be able to experience a different perspective that is presented in such a honest, balanced, and age appropriate way. 

Normally, I don't like reading about protagonists who are significantly younger than me. Mena, at fourteen, at first seemed much too young for my enjoyment. However, the issues presented in the book were so interesting, and the voice was so engaging, it didn't matter what age the main character was. Mena truly sounded fourteen, which I actually liked. She had the worries and wonders of our a girl her age. She was experiencing a separation from her parents for the first time. She was experiencing her first romance, her first taste of independence. I felt Brande captured all of these experiences wonderfully, in a pitch perfect voice. Ultimately, I loved Mena, and I thought fourteen was an interesting and important age to approach this topic from. 

As an atheist, I found it very refreshing to read about religion in such a truthful, open, and respectful way. Brande doesn't preach; in fact, I'm not certain Brande is religious at all. All I know is that God is real to Mena, and after following her for nearly three hundred pages, I truly respect and understand her view. Mena loves God, worships God, but also doubts God. Mena considers different viewpoints, and then draws her own conclusions, which I really respect. When Mena is taught about evolution, she turns to the bible, and finds a way to reconcile facts with faith. At fourteen, Mena is uncertain and vulnerable; through the novel, her character arc brings her to a place where is confident in what she believes, who she is, and what she stands for. As a fourteen year old protagonist, she is experiencing her first doubts about religion, friends, family, and selfhood; what I truly appreciate about the novel is that it presents all of these topics in a non-judgemental, imperfect light, respecting the readers views and justifying Mena's actions.

I want to teach this novel because of all those issues. But I think it belongs in the classroom because it's not just an "issue book". It has romance, great romance. Casey is a very smart and very sweet boy, and his relationship with Mena unfolds in a somewhat untraditional way, veering off the beat-for-beat path that so many romances follow these days. It also has family and friend drama that anyone could relate to. In Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, Robin Brande crafts a novel that teenagers will find enjoyable, relatable, but also thought provoking. In this, Brande proves that science can be successfully mixed with social drama, and that religion can be served with a side of romance; in doing so, she respects both the opinions and beliefs of the individual and the intelligence and insight of every teenage reader who deserves to experience such a brilliant novel.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review! I think this would be a great book to have as part of required high school English- so much possibility for discussion and debate!


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