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.
I’m not quite sure how to define this book because while it is technically a contemporary it never really FEELS like your typical contemporary YA. “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” is definitely 100% it’s own book, I’ve never read anything else remotely like it. Overall I’m very impressed with it!
I’ve always found the cult mentality and just cults in general to be very interesting, I’m morbid like that, and I feel like this book portrays both of these things extremely well too. It’s hard to imagine people blindly following someone or something that just seems so ridiculous and unbelievable to the rest of us, which is shown in this book. I really enjoyed just how developed Oakes made her “Kevinian cult”, with the Prophet’s prophecies, his own version of a bible full of made up stories, polygamy, and even the brutality of their punishments.
The violence can get very graphic at times which not only made it more realistic, I think, but also really helped to drive the point home that these things actually happen in the world. I mean a major part of the story revolves around the fact that the main character gets her hands cut off. So if you’re the more squeamish type this book may not be for you.
However, as interesting as the cult aspects of the book are it isn’t the sole focus instead it focuses more on Minnow, her story, and how she’s learning to adapt with a way of life that goes against everything she’s been taught to believe. This is the part of the book that makes it so powerful and what makes it such an amazing read.
The ending was really the only part I had any complaint about as far as the plot went, it felt kind of anti-climatic although it was still very solid. I felt like the revealing of the Prophet’s death should have been a little more dramatic and what happens to Minnow after her story is complete a little more defined but I’m happy with the choices she made.
The pacing is a little slower and there definitely is not a ton of action but the story Minnow tells about her time with the cult is interesting enough to keep you turning pages, trust me!
What I easily loved the most about this book was Minnow’s narrative, it was compelling with some wonderful snippets of humor as well. I also loved her character in general but I’ll get to that in a bit….
Also the writing! It was just plain amazing I can’t believe this is a debut novel, Stephanie Oakes writes like a pro! I will definitely be reading more books by her when they come out.
As I said a little earlier Minnow is by far the best part about this book, her narrative was amazing and she’s a very strong character especially after all she’s been through. She was complex and realistically developed throughout the story, going from believing blindly to questioning everything she’s been taught.
The side characters are also really well developed, mostly everyone in the juvenile detention center such as the other girls, guards, and teachers. I loved how the “don’t judge a book by its cover” sentiment really comes into play here as a lot of the girls have a lot more to them than initial appearances.
There is a little bit of romance but nothing major, Minnow develops a relationship with an African-American boy, Jude, who also lives out in the woods. Their romance is really very sweet but at the end I was still very happy with Minnow’s decision regarding Jude.
Overall “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly” is a powerful story with a message that’s easy to grasp, thinking and doing for yourself and no one else. I think that’s something we can all get behind.
What I Liked:
- Minnow and her narrative
- Side characters!
- The realistic (and brutal) portrayal of cults and cult mentality
- The overall message of the book (thinking and doing for yourself and no one else)
- The writing
- The side romance was sweet and didn’t take precedence over the story
What I Didn’t Like:
- The pacing was slow at times
- The ending felt a little anti-climatic
- The Prophet! (even though that was the whole point….but still!)
I highly recommend reading this book if you’re looking for a unique YA read that also has a really strong message! Overall it’s just a wonderful, dark, realistic book.