Sunday, March 17, 2013

YA Realistic Fiction: The Right & the Real by Joelle Anthony

Publisher: Putnam
Date: April 2012
Format: ARC
Source: ARCycling
Read: for review (disclaimer: I received my copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.)
Pages: 280
Reading time: two and a half days

From GoodReads: Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata. Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

My review: The Right & the Real kind of surprised me at first because unlike a lot of other novels involving cults, it doesn't focus on a member's time inside the group or the time immediately after she's left. Jamie is mostly involved with the cult on its periphery, attending events with her boyfriend and later her dad; her experiences as being part of the group are not mentioned much. Instead, the book focuses on how Jamie deals with life on her own - and trying to regain contact with her father - as a teenager kicked out of her own home.

Sometimes I found Jamie's naivete and lack of knowledge to be irritating. I mean, even after dating a member of the church for a while, she didn't realize it was a cult until a sudden epiphany during her father's wedding? No one - including said boyfriend - bothered to explain some of the practices of the group, including what was expected of young women who joined? Yes, Jamie was wrapped up in a rather physical relationship with Josh at the time, but still, it seems a bit ridiculous that she didn't have a better idea of what was going on.

But besides this, The Right & the Real was a very interesting and enjoyable read. The perspective was different from that of other cult books, and the plot, though not thrilling, kept moving and easily held interest. I breezed through the pages, wanting to know how Jamie would deal with her many obstacles and whether or not she'd be able to reconcile with her father. Though this was a fun read, it also brought up important deeper topics like religion, addiction, homelessness, and other social issues.

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