Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

PZ7.B735 – PZ is Fiction and Juvenile Belles lettres, PZ(1)-(4) is Fiction in English. Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature is on the 2008 YALSA Best Books for Young Adults list (and also on the YALSA 2008 Selected Audiobooks for Young Adults list).

Author: Robin Brande
ISBN-10: 037589165X ISBN-13: 9780375891656
City and Publisher: New York: Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright Date: 2007
Author’s Website: http://robinbrande.com/

Reader’s Annotation: Mena’s friends all hate her, and her first day of high school couldn’t be worse.  But when she’s paired with a brilliant, funny lab partner, she has no idea what she’s about to get caught up in.

Plot Summary: Mena Reece did what she thought was the right thing but ended up being ostracized by her church and all her friends.  In biology, her brilliant, slightly eccentric teacher pairs her with a brilliant, slightly eccentric guy.  During the unit on evolution, her old church friends launch a protest.  Mena, meanwhile, must discover how her beliefs reconcile with science, as she and her crush-inducing lab partner get caught up in the controversy.  And what will she tell her parents?

Critical Evaluation: Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature tackles issues of morality, ethics, teenage doubt, and high school crushes, not to mention conflicts between science and religion, in a balanced, thoughtful, and entertaining fashion.  Mena is an extremely well-written character, whose confusion is balanced by strong beliefs.  This novel is about navigating the world within your own framework; how ideas and actions reflect who you want to be and what you believe in.  It examines how new thoughts are not the enemy, although they do bring new challenges.  Mena has a great cast of supporting characters, who help her learn how to speak up, and how to evolve.  The story, especially the romantic plot line, develops very sweetly in spite of some very difficult and ugly events.  For me, especially at the beginning, it echoed Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, but ended up being far less stark.

Reading Level/Interest: 12 & up
Curriculum Ties: Evolution, Religion, Separation of Church and State, Freedom of Speech, Ethics & Morality
Booktalking Ideas: Discuss real-life instances of controversy between evolution and Christian beliefs.

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Coming of age

Challenge Issues: Fundamental Christians may take issue with the book’s stance on the theory of evolution.  However, Mena remains a Christian character, and reconciles her beliefs with her new love of science.  Mena also lies to her parents throughout a good portion of the book, but ends up coming clean and committing to honesty.

About the Author: Brande has published one other novel, Fat Cat, and has a new work, Parallelogram, which is forthcoming in 2011.  She has worked as a trial attorney and yoga instructor, among other things.  More at http://robinbrande.com/about

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