Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature

Evolution, Me and Other Freaks of Nature

4.4 39
by Robin Brande
     
 

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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

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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.

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:
01/13/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
928,211
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

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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Meet the Author

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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