It was just OKAY.

filled star filled star star unfilled star unfilled star unfilled
moondust moth Avatar


I thought this was going to have dystopian aspects, but it's just about a cult. This was an okay, if rather bland, story about the abuse of religion. I say bland because it was just so...normal. I suppose that's why it feels so insidious, because once you start peeling back layer after layer you may find that the problems are more severe than they first appear. What's sad is, this has happened and still happens to so many people in the real.

This story begins with Miriam, a sixteen-year-old girl, on her wedding day. To be more specific, she as well as a handful of other girls ages 14-17 are being married off to random boys in New Jerusalem, a fenced off and guarded compound in the California desert. Tonight a boy they have never even so much as spoken to will call their name, and then they will be married and taken to their marriage bed, as is 'God's will'. Women are not allowed to speak or question. Women are not allowed to show their hair or their skin. Women are not allowed choice, for anything. Women are property belonging to men.

Their 'prophet' Daniel has brainwashed his flock and has bent the word of God to such a degree that he has essentially built a haven for himself where all revere him; he's a psychopath playing God. The first generation are a bunch of crazies, and the second generation knows nothing else having been indoctrinated since birth. Daniel has crafted his world in a way where the people of New Jerusalem are plain and uneducated, perfect for manipulating. They're expected to spend all their time in worship, and while they believe they're worshiping the word of God, they're actually worshipping Daniel and his 'interpretations'.

Miriam seems to be the only person in the compound who can think for herself. She slowly notices the unfairness, the abuse, and questions why 'God' would allow such things to happen. If He loved them, why would He silence them? Why would He put someone else's happiness above anyone else's? I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but the turn of events focus on revelations of all sorts from changes of the heart to the importance of exacting free will, and the power of women, the lengths some men will go to control women to keep them from becoming powerful individuals.

The story was okay, but not my particular cup of tea. Admittedly I did start skimming through about 2/3 of the way through the book because I had become so bored with their drama, and the inconsistency portrayed by the second generation. It was a little irritating that the second generation had this sort of...modern way about them. Slang, phrasings, the 'mean girl' thing that went on, the 'rebel' - it probably shouldn't have been there, and felt less authentic.

The ending was pretty good, and I loved how the author chose not to tack on some kind of "but even though this bad shit happened, God has a purpose bla bla bla" bullshit that I've seen which is always infuriating. Sometimes bad shit just happens, and religion isn't always kind to everyone, especially women or 'sinners'. Folks who enjoy cult-centered plots would love this book.

Content Warnings for cults, religion, brainwashing, sexism, forced marriage, violence, guns, abandonment, intrusion of privacy, mentions of rape, sexual harassment, adultery, gayphobic content, church shootings, teenage runaways, statutory rape, kidnapping. ♡