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A Divine Comedy

At his new school, Michael meets a smoking hot Catholic girl, a future priest, and a Colombian rebel. And they're all the same person.

A Divine Comedy

BOOK REPORT for In Memory of Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry

Cover Story: A Toast!
Drinking Buddy: This is my Blood
Testosterone Level: Angry Teen Boy
Talky Talk: Vox Dei
Bonus Factor: Catholocism
Bromance Status: One in the Spirit

Cover Story: A Toast!

The odd cover is a reference to Michael's smart ass comments about The Virgin Mary appearing in burnt pieces of toast. And I can dig it. Love the title as well.

The Deal:

After his father swore he wouldn't move the family again, Michael finds himself restarting his junior year in an unfamiliar city at a Catholic school. Michael, who's an atheist, is pretty pissed at his parents, and is not in love with the idea of ties and dress codes and genuflecting. That is, until he meets Lucy, his gorgeous Colombian-American classmate, who picks a fight with their teacher nun about women's rights and their place in the church. Michael knows he and Lucy are going to tear this place apart and bring down this ridiculous religious school.

Except...it turns out Lucy is not an atheist. She's Catholic. She's very Catholic. She wants to be the first female priest. And her constant arguing and rebellion is just a way to help the church she loves adapt to changing times. But she's okay with Michael's non-belief. In fact, her closest friends are all heretics of one type or another. There's Avi, who's Jewish and homosexual. Eden, who's a pagan. And Max, who's just...odd. Together they meet under the moniker of 'Heretics Anonymous' and think of ways to subvert the sexist and homophobic attitudes of the school. And Michael is one of their own. Together they perform little acts of anarchy and rebellion that keep their teachers on their toes. But the authorities only can take so much. Just how far is the group willing to go to make their point?

Drinking Buddy: This is My Blood

Yeah, who wouldn't want to hang out with a crowd like this? I guess everyone in high school liked to subvert the authorities and sock it to the man, but most of our rebellion was little more than drawing the anarchist symbol in the bathroom. But these guys are organized and have kind of a moral compass. When a popular teacher is fired when she marries her long time partner, the gang leaps to her defense. When the administrators lay down the law with the dress code, the kids find every possible loophole. When they're forced to watch an abstinence-only sex ed presentation, they hit back with information of their own. And when they find some really damaging dirt on some unpopular teachers...they file it away. Yeah, I would have loved to have been part of this crowd.

Testosterone Level: Angry Teen Boy

Michael's father is a big shot in his Belgium-based company, which means a lot of relocations and a lot of time away from the family. Michael is furious about his father's disinterest, and is determined to let him know. At the same time, Michael is old enough to realize you have to make sacrifices for work, and the move did turn out well for him. He's found his group, he's met a girl. But it's hard to find common ground with a man who lied to him.

The same with the school and church authorities. Michael is ready to give it to them with both barrels, but his friends urge caution. But are they really going to change anything by playing by the rules? Sometimes a guy just has to act alone.

And then there's Lucy. Sometimes good girls can be bad. Even ones who want to be priests.

Talky Talk: Vox Dei

I think we can agree that if change is going to come, it's going to be from the younger people. And this book was a perfect example. They're idealistic, maybe overly so. They're determined to make change, even if they're not entirely sure how to go about it. They're not afraid break some rules, but they do have brakes. Maybe not Michael.

At times, Lucy did give us lectures on the Catholic church, which smacked of an author avatar, but it was actually rather interesting. You wonder what these kids will get up to when they have a little money, a little more freedom, and some education.

Ah, they'll probably all join the Kiwanis Club and buy SUVs.

Bonus Factor: Catholicism

So an atheist, a vegan, and a crossfit enthusiast walk into a bar...and everyone knows because they immediately mention it.

Michael has that unholier-than-thou attitude, looking down on the poor, blinded fools who believe in the invisible man in the sky. That is until he meets his new friends and learns that being religious doesn't mean that you're ignorant or foolish. Lucy shows that a lot of the Catholic saints were rebels and progressive thinkers, at least for their era. At the same time, she realizes that the church has a lot of work to do in terms of women's rights and policies on sexuality (though the priest molestation scandals are conveniently never mentioned). One of the nuns proves to be very intelligent and forward thinking. Michael starts to get an open mind when in comes to religion. At the same time, not being a member of the church, Michael feels no need to rein in the group's activities. Wearing the most obnoxious plaid they can find is one thing, but isn't it time they do something...big? Maybe Michael needs to do this on his own.

Bromance Status: One in the Spirit

While I'm not a guy who likes books about religion, this novel spoke to me. It goes to show that we can all live together in peace. Now let's get the religious leaders of the world together and put our plan into action.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• Hey, not all religious people are boring! Check out Inclination, by Mia Kerick.

• If you'd like to see a great, R-rated play about questioning one's faith, try The Book of Mormon. Don't take your kids.

• And for another group of teen rebels, read Brent Hartinger's The Elephant of Surprise.

FTC full disclosure: I received neither money nor a school tie for writing this review.

 

Brian Katcher's photo About the Author: Brian Katcher wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.