Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature

( 38 )

Overview

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.

All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most ...

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Overview

Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.

All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Brande tackles fundamentalist thinking and the hot-button issue of evolution vs. intelligent design in her ambitious YA debut. Mena, an immediately likable narrator, spends the first week of high school dodging social and academic landmines. She's been banished from her fundamentalist church, where some members now face a lawsuit because of her, and her intimidating classmates/former church friends aren't about to let her forget it. The author's slow revelation of the back story will hook readers from the start: what could this nice girl possibly have done? "I did the right thing," Mena tells herself on the opening day of school after her ex-best friend shoots her the "Look of Death." "And someday the truth shall set me free. Just not, apparently, today." When the narrative moves forward to introduce a dynamic new science teacher, Mena faces controversy once more. Luckily, a brainy (and cute) lab partner and his outspoken older sister help Mena find her footing. Brande stacks the decks against the creationists-their followers bully a kid they think might be gay; they turn on their children; they behave badly in general-but the fluid storytelling offers thought-provoking situations and ideas. Ages 12-up. (Aug.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Cynthia Winfield
Mena's freshman year starts painfully. She is ostracized by her Christian church for her letter of apology and explanation to a boy-who had attempted suicide following their fervent onslaught to save his soul-when the letter is attached to a lawsuit against her church. Now high school holds hate stares, hallway hip-checks, and cruel comments. Luckily, although half her biology classmates are from her church, her assigned lab partner, Casey, is an enthusiastic science geek who follows their teacher's scientific career and whose older sister is an outspoken journalist on the warpath for Truth. Casey, raised with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, cannot fathom a life wherein such treasures are viewed as the devil's work and endeavors to enlighten Mena. When Ms. Shepherd teaches evolution, the imposing Pastor Wells challenges her and Mena begins to question her religious education. With lessons in constitutional law, scientific method, and biblical lore, Brande's novel is serious, fun, poignant, and romantic. From savoring sweet puppy breath to feeling the confused elation of a crush, Mena experiences a dizzying freshman year. In clarifying the separation of church and state, Brande's unforgettable protagonist reveals biblical passages that support Darwin's theories. Meant as bedtime reading, this delightful work held this reviewer until dawn, periodically laughing aloud, continually turning pages, wholly engrossed. A must-have for secondary classrooms (science, history, English, journalism) and public libraries, this story informs as it entertains, piques curiosity, has broad appeal, and will serve book groups well.
Kirkus Reviews
Mena Reece's freshman year is not turning out as planned; she's been shunned by her friends because she blew the whistle on them. They all belong to an ultra-conservative church (Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings are banned from her reading list). Suspecting a fellow classmate to be gay, the group harassed him and after his attempted suicide, Mena sent an apologetic letter naming names. The boy's family sues the church and everyone blames Mena for the disruption, especially her parents. Then Mena is paired with Casey Connor, a science geek, and her life takes a positive turn. When the science class begins the unit on evolution, Mena's church insists Intelligent Design be included. As the church ramps up its demands, shy Mena finds her voice as Bible Grrrl, "defender of truth in biblical citations." Suddenly, Bible Grrrl's opinions are hot. Casey's friendship allows Mena to question her conservative upbringing, and the fact that he really likes her helps her outlook immensely. An appealingly humorous take on themes classic and new. (Fiction. 12-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780440240303
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 1/13/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 590,196
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Robin Brande

Robin Brande has been a trial attorney, yoga instructor, black belt, entrepreneur, community college professor, Wilderness First Responder, insurance agent, outdoor adventurer, Girl Scout leader, and Sunday school teacher. Robin Brande spent her high school years in the make-believe worlds of books and Drama, and finds that she still prefers it that way. This is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

One

I knew today would be ugly. When you’re single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends and their parents sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine.

It’s just that I hoped my first day of school—of high school, thank you, which I’ve only been looking forward to my entire life—might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong.

I knew I’d be seeing some of these people today, but in first period already? And it has to be none other than my former best friend and the pastor’s daughter—two of the people who have cause to hate me the most.

Having Teresa and Bethany in English might not be so bad if they’d just ignore me, but at the start of class when Mr. Kuhlman called, “Mena Reece,” and I croaked out my “Here,” Teresa had to turn her blond, spiky head around and shoot me the Look of Death, and I got that combined feeling of needing to throw up and possibly pee my pants.

Think positive. Think positive.

Why didn’t my parents let me transfer? There are plenty of charter schools around, or they could have sent me to live with my aunt in Wyoming or with strangers in Alaska for all I care. But I know they want to see me punished. They pretend they’ve forgiven me, but I know deep down inside they hate me for writing that letter, just like everybody else.

It’s only been half an hour, and already I can tell this is going to be the worst day of my life. I don’t know why I’m so surprised. I knew seeing everyone today would be hard. It’s only been a month since they were all served with the lawsuit, and even though I’ve gotten plenty of hate e-mails and phone messages since then, it’s not the same as having to deal with these people in person.

I just didn’t realize I’d be so scared. It’s pathetic. What do I have to be afraid of? My conscience is clear. I didn’t do anything wrong.

No, correction: I did the right thing. And someday the truth shall set me free.

Just not, apparently, today.

Two

Okay, at least second period wasn’t so bad.

Maybe the only good thing about going to New Advantage High School (motto: “Let brilliance find you”—whatever that’s supposed to mean) is they count yoga as PE. Also archery, tai chi, and kickboxing. But I’m glad I picked yoga. If ever a girl needs an hour between English and biology to chill out and breathe deeply and try to prevent her oncoming heart attack, that’s me. Plus, I don’t know a single person in my yoga class, for which I am truly grateful.

I wasn’t sure my parents would let me take yoga. Pastor Wells was on this funk last year about how chanting during yoga or meditation is idol worship, because you’re focused on a word or an image that isn’t God and you’re basically praying to it. He said the only acceptable way to meditate is to picture the Lord in front of you, his arms wide, a gentle smile on his face. Some women from the church even started their own class to teach us how to do it.

So this morning while our teacher, Missy, led us through the pranas and the asanas, I thought about Jesus the whole time. I pictured us on a hillside together, lying back on the grass while his flock grazed all around us.

I talked Jesus’s ear off, but he smiled and let me go on. And when I had unloaded everything that was on my mind, he gave me a hug and called me Little Sister and told me everything will be all right.

It will, won’t it? It felt so good to believe it.

Toward the end of class, Missy taught us some posture that I swear can only come in handy if you ever want to shave your own back. But our reward for pretzeling was that for the last twenty minutes of class she let us lie on our mats with our eyes closed, thinking our most peaceful thoughts.

I am in the woods, beside a calm, serene lake. The birds are singing. I can smell the pine. I am completely invisible. No one can find me. I’ve never heard of Denny Pierce.

And then the bell rang. Happy time was over.

I dressed as boring as I could today—plain jeans, a faded black T-shirt—hoping it would help hide me somehow. Right. As if I could walk even two steps down the hall without someone I know recognizing me and giving me the total Hairy Eyeball.

I kept my head down and plowed through, and had almost made it to my third-period biology class without bodily harm when someone hip-checked me into the wall.

I turned to see my former—don’t know what to call him, really. Crush? Pre-boyfriend? The guy I was stupid enough to like last year and thought I might actually go out with once I’m allowed to date?—snickering and snuffling to himself. Yeah, Adam, that’s so impressive. People must think you’re really cool for tackling some girl you outweigh by a hundred pounds.

But I didn’t say anything, of course. Just mumbled, “Don’t,” and hurried into class. Way to stick up for yourself, Mena. You showed him.

And then as if having Adam in that class isn’t enough, guess who else? Teresa, of course, because apparently having her in English just isn’t enough torture. For all I know, she’s probably in all my classes except yoga, and tomorrow she’ll transfer into that, too, just to make sure I’m living my own personal hell.

I grabbed a seat as far away from her as possible, but Teresa still managed to throw me a look like would I do everyone a favor and just die.

If the day keeps going like this, I might.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 38 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(26)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Me, this book, and why I totally enjoyed it.

    I just finished this book, devouring it in one sitting. I loved several things about Evolution, Me and other Freaks of Nature: first, that it made me think, second, that I could relate to it and third, that there was a cute, funny, nerdy guy in it. But this wasn't just a light teen book-this book had real stuff in it-stuff that makes you think and question your own beliefs (always a good thing, in my opinion) so you come to understand WHY you believe what you believe in. All the characters in this book are 3D and a lot of fun and I always like reading about smart, caring and inspiring teachers who take the time to make sure students are not just fed information, but are active participants in their own learning. Great job by author Robin Brande and I can't wait to see what she comes out with next.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2008

    Excellent YA novel

    This is a strongly written, edgy, often heart-wrenching story about Mena Reece, a young woman whose whistle- blowing on her church youth group has cost her everything. Her former friends ignore or abuse her. Her parents resent her for endangering their business and standing in the community. When some salvation comes from her maverick high school biology teacher and a new, science-geek friend, Mena is forced to confront the people who she has hurt and who have hurt her. This is an astonishing first novel, full of heartache and alienation, but also hope and much clever humor. The characters are believable, and the love story that underlies the novel's drama is palpably bitter-sweet. Further, the book's setting - in the midst of the US school dispute over intelligent design - makes this an ideal book for young people struggling to define themselves and lends a broader, philosophical strength to Mena's narrative -- Highly recommended

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 18, 2011

    CrazyMazing

    Goooooooooood boooooooook. Hate the parents, love the argruements, love the puppies. Wanna eat up how cute mena and casey are. 201 pages. Buybuybuybuy! :D

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Great!

    Mena is starting out high school with no friends. Her so called friends deserted her after Mena did the right thing at her church group, but her pastor and chruch friends thought differently about her decision. So Mena was kicked out of church. But when Mena's science teacher has a lesson on evloution and she is paired with a friendly lab partner, Mena discovers just how much friendship and church means to her.

    Evolution, Me and other freaks of nature is an amazing book that has a great message. I connected well with Menas thoughts about everything that happens and her lab partner, Casey, was the perfect friend for Mena. I suggest this book to all types of people, even if you aren't christian. The book has a wonderful message!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good Read.

    This book was a really good read for those confused about religion. Me, being agnostic, wasn't really affected by the religion aspects of the book, but some confused may feel differently. There is also a little romance in there for those who like a little lust in their books. I would recommend it. =]

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    Omg

    I love this it challge my mind

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2013

    Sweet and strong

    This was a different read for me. I don't usually read stories where the main character is involved with the clash between religion and science and I liked how the herione dealt with her beliefs in both and became stronger because of her conflicts. I would've preferred her to have been harder on her parents though. I thought they were in the wrong too as much as the people they go to church with. I loved how Mena and Casey's relationship "evolved" at the end as well.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2012

    Very Good Reading

    This book was very entertaining. The comedy, sadness, and romance is all mixed perfectly! It really shows the feelings of an outcast. I didn't know who this author was but am glad I decided to get the book. Well worth it. Definitely looking for more books by this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    uggg

    To girly and romancey for me

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2012

    AMAZING!

    Couldn't stop reading. I was only supposed to read 100 pages but I ended up reading the whole book. and I NEVER read! Its so beautifully written. Well done.

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  • Posted January 21, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    We all are freaks of nature!

    This story was awesome. It has romance, comedy and it's really cute. I never thought the book was going to be this good. The main character, mena is trying to find the balance between science and religion. On her first day of high school she gets a new science teacher and along with her new lab partner. Mena starts to see what her lab partner means when he says that their science teacher is the coolest and knows everything about sciene. And from there the story continues. Definetley read this book. You don't HAVE to buy it. you can simply request it through the public library, like i did, and pick it up there. JUst read it!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2009

    Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature Book Review

    I thought this book was really well written and challenged the reader to pick what they believe in, science or religion. When Mena Reece wrote something that goes against her religion and results in the church being sued and her being hated by her friends, church, and family, she was challenged herself. Even though she thought she had made the right decision her church didn't think so, they thought it was totally against her religion and theirs. She starts school and nobody will talk to her or even look at her they just ignore her because they too had gotten sued. She tries to stay hidden from them so they don't hurt her or talk to her but that doesn't work, Teresa, her former best friend is in almost all of her classes. She finally gets a science partner named Casey who is a genius when it comes to science. They end up becoming good friends and always hangout together. When her science teacher, Ms. Shepherd, introduces Evolution to the class the religious kids refuse to listen and turn their backs. This challenges Mena to think about Evolution and how the evidence proves it but she also mix's in her religious side and made it come together as one.
    By: CJH (Carly)

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  • Posted October 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Brilliant!

    I have never read a book like this before! Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature is a brilliant piece of literature about religion and science, finding your place in the world and young love.

    Mena Reece has done something so unspeakable it got her kicked out of her church. No she is left to deal with the kids from her youth group picking her out to torture. How ironic, right? Then she meets Casey, her new science partner and he is going to make them science super stars! Both are completely inspired by their science teacher, Ms. Shepherd and it all takes off from there.

    The kids from Mena's former church refuse to listen to Ms. Shepherd when she teaches about evolution.

    As this is happening Casey and Mena are also working on their science project behind the backs of Mena's parents because she isn't supposed to over at a boys house.

    This book is a whirl wind and you won't be able to but it down! It made me think so much about the relationship of religion and science. This is a book for everyone of all ages, boy or girl. It taught me so much and most books seem to lack that capability. It is a truly amazing read. Pick it up today and you will not be disappointed.

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  • Posted August 7, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Great!!!

    A good book that every confused teen should read. Not just for christians

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 1, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Love It!!!!

    This book is really good. The stortline is great, and the characters are great. It shows how some cristian people really are. Not that all people are like that. This is a book you will not want to put down and pass on to friends!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 26, 2007

    Solid in all aspects

    This book is a page-turner that fans of evolution, religion, and both will enjoy. Mena is a believable character with genuine emotions-- her desire and struggle to truly do the right thing is lovable and realistic. Also, the evolution vs. intelligent design debate was well-presented. I imagine this book will keep everyone reading -- teenagers, adults, teachers-- and it is a good choice for those who worry about what their children are reading!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2007

    Page-turner that gets under your skin

    This is an amazing first novel that will completely win your heart. I found myself rooting for the the protagonist and turning the pages as quickly as I could. Mena really gets under your skin, and you can't help but sympathize with her situation and respect her principles, while also being shocked at what they've cost her. The novel evokes the poignant bitter-sweet nature of first love and raises fascinating questions about the role of religion in schools.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2007

    Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature

    I can't wait to read it!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2007

    A reviewer

    RObin, I can't wait to read your book! It looks REALLY good! Hopefully I'll see you back in sunday school in August! (and Im still waiting to know that really really long last name of yours!!!)

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 7, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews

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