Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams

Title: The Chosen One
Author: Carol Lynch Williams
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 0-312-55511-3
Release Date: 2009
Page Number: 213
Price: $16.95/$18.95 Can.

"If I was going to kill the prophet, I'd do it in Africa." So says thirteen year old Kyra in the opening of The Chosen One, a novel by Carol Lynch Williams. Kyra is a member of The Chosen Ones, an isolated community of polygamists. As a Chosen One, she lives behind fences, hidden from the outside world and ruled by Prophet Childs and his enforcers, known as the God Squad. Kyra's life as a Chosen One is a life of orders, duty, and restriction. As a girl in a polygamist society, she is to help with all chores, take care of the many younger children, obey the men without question, and when the time comes, to marry the man the Prophet annouces that God has chosen for her, and bear him as many children as she is able to.

But Kyra has two secrets. The first comes in the form of a book mobile, which she visits weekly to borrow a book from, despite the Prophet's claim that books from the outside contain only "Satan's word", and despite the danger she would face if she were caught. Kyra's second secret, like most young girls, comes in the form of a boy. His name is Joshua, and Kyra thinks, if she could, she'd choose him to be her husband. But in The Chosen Ones, women don't choose. They are chosen. And if there's one thing Kyra is realizing, it's that she can't remember a recent time when a young man and a young girl were married. If there's one thing Kyra is realizing, it's that the young girls are all going to the old men.

Nonetheless, when the Prophet comes to tell her that she has been chosen by God to become the seventh wife of not only an older man, but her own uncle, Kyra is shocked and horrified. And despite the fact that she is a Chosen One, and has been raised to obey, Kyra finds herself questioning the authority of the Prophet, and the society she's lived in her entire life.

I first picked up The Chosen One in my school library a few weeks ago, but being as the end of the year was fast approaching, I was denied my request to take out any more books. Figuring I'd have to wait until September to get anywhere near the book, I was pleasantly surprised to find a copy of the novel in the return box of my public library, and I couldn't wait to start it. Although most books tend to get my attention by book cover alone, The Chosen One caught my attention solely based on the unique setting and premise. Taboo subjects are something I enjoy, you'll come to find, and The Chosen One certainly promised to deliver.

I found that the novel did deliver on the promises made, and I enjoyed the reading. The author doesn't romanticize the subjects, but delivers each one with the gritty details. I found the writing to be delightfully expressive; Kyra's disgust and helplessness was vivid in my mind as I followed the story, and I can truthfully say that toward the end of the novel, I neglected much of my classwork in order to finish the story and find out Kyra's fate.

I usually hate when I read things like "heart pounding" but I like to think that The Chosen One deserves the term, after a point. The novel actually starts out rather slow, and there is a good sized chunk of pages where the plot itself seems to crawl, with the same themes being expressed repetitively. There is a very obvious turning point as you're reading, where the story goes from interesting almost solely because of the interesting details and society and livestyle being expressed, to being interesting because of the plot itself, and the main character's plight. After this point, the pace of the novel increases frantically, with sudden major points occurring one after another and increasing the sense of urgency. I found the pace very interesting, and felt that it matched the events in the story very well.

As far as characterization goes, I found that for the most part, the author did well. Kyra's plight was horrifyingly believable in my eyes, and she was very emotionally expressive. When reading, one can almost feel the urgency, the fear, and the helplessness she faced, and in several parts, I couldn't help but urge her on. I found myself getting very involved in the novel, following Kyra's story with active hopes that things would turn out well for her. Likewise, many of the support characters were portrayed rather well, particularly considering the short length of the novel. Even some of the antagonists of the novel were nicely detailed, and not just purely cardboard evil villains. Those who committed acts that might be portrayed as cruel did so because they truly believed, because they thought it was God's command and their duty to follow it. The only issue I found with Williams' characters was in Prophet Childs himself, who I felt was very two dimensional. To be completely frank, there were no redeeming features in the novel at all, as far as he went, and he came off as a purely self-serving individual. My personal preference is for villains who can by sympathized with in some way, or at the very least, villains that make you think about the story instead of rooting purely for the main character. But being as this is a personal preference, Prophet's characterization was only a very small blemish on an otherwise decent novel.

As far as personal opinions go, I enjoyed the book quite a bit. As said, the premise was particularly interesting, and I enjoyed reading about something that one doesn't see as often, instead of the increasingly common "vampire romance", "regular teenage drama", or "high school with a twist" themes that have invaded the young adult bookshelves. I found the change to something different very refreshing. The fact that the novel parallels so many real life events only increases the allure, in my eyes. I would happily recommend the book to anyone interested in trying something a little new, although I will say that The Chosen One is more of a 'once and then you're done' sort of novel. The nature of the story is somewhat dependent on the new ideas and information, and there isn't much of a draw to reread the novel after you've finished it once, although I may find my opinion on the matter changed after a few months have gone by, and I've forgotten some of the details. As it stands, however, there doesn't seem to be very much reread value.

The Chosen One was a very unique, interesting read, and I can honestly say that I did enjoy the novel. There were a few flaws, admittedly, but I think they were slight enough to be forgiven. The story itself was enjoyable, one of those novels that are hard to put down at some points, because the tension rises so high. I'd recommend it to anyone whose looking for a bit of light reading, who might like a story involving a decently strong female lead, a story based on a theme that isn't particularly mainstream, or anyone who might want a story based on events that happen in real life, but that aren't commonplace.


  1. Haven't finished it yet, but "if she could, she'd chose him to be her husband. But in The Chosen Ones, women don't chose."

    I believe you mean choose.

  2. It certainly sounds very interesting. I enjoy taboo things as well, and so I'm definitely going to have to follow this blog to see what you can give me to read. I'm always looking for new things. I think you and I were some of Ms. Bosler's favorite people. I'm super excited to check this out. =]

  3. Oh! Thank you, Goddess. ;3
    I never catch stuff like that on my own, haha. And yeah, we were. It was her new order that let me find the book to begin with.

  4. Well, it's longer than mine. HAHAHAHAHA, I'm tired.

  5. Haven't I met you before? Correct me, if I happen to be wrong. Anyways, I found this review very well written and it certainly follows the outlined rules for good blog reviews.

    @ZDee Length's not the most important factor. Concise reviews could contain more meaningful details than a lengthy review. And remember, everyone's format needs to reflect their own feelings. As to your reviews, summarize less and describe your feelings more.