Keep Sweet

Keep Sweet

4.6 14
by Michele Dominguez Greene
     
 

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Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it.

Overview

Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it.

But everything changes when Alva is caught giving her long-time crush an innocent first kiss. Beaten, scorned, and now facing a forced marriage to a violent, fifty-year old man, Alva suddenly realizes how much she has to lose--and how impossible it will be to escape.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For most of the women inside Pine-ridge, an isolated compound of Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints in Utah, keeping sweet (“obedience with a willing and happy heart”) is their ultimate duty before God. Underage marriages, strict rules of conduct (unwavering devotion to the prophet, a birth every year after marriage, seclusion from the outside world), and a polygamist lifestyle are not only enforced, but embraced. But when 14-year-old Alva Jane is caught kissing a boy she hopes to wed, a vicious beating and a grave punishment—to become the sixth wife of the prophet's brother, a sadistic man 40 years her senior—exposes the community's capacity for brutality. Like Carol Lynch Williams's The Chosen One (2009), which explored similar territory, Greene's (Chasing the Jaguar) account of Alva Jane's progression from naïve disciple to skeptic is gripping, horrifying, and convincing. However, the story's climax (Alva Jane's second escape attempt) feels rushed and underdeveloped, leaving several plot points—a sudden police raid on Pineridge, Alva Jane's pregnancy, and the possibility of a new life for her in the outside world—frustratingly unexplored. Ages 14–up. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
"Real elements of the FLDS experience add contemporary authenticity. Readers may simply relish the peek over the wall into a lifestyle very different from their own." — The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, April 2010

"Accessible and compelling." –School Library Journal, April 1, 2010

School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Alva Jane, 14, lives in the claustrophobic environment of a polygamist compound. She bakes bread for her father's 7 wives and 29 children before heading off to the provincial compound school. Math-smart, she has been allowed some minor freedoms including working in the community's store and studying with one of the older boys. Alva Jane's awakening begins with her attraction to her math tutor, kindhearted John Joseph, who seems headed for leadership within the power structure of the cult. The attraction is mutual and the two secretly plan to start a life together as soon as he can get permission and she is ready to be sealed in marriage, which is determined by her first menses. But their plans do not account for the designs of the older men or the resentment of Sister Cora, the first wife of Alva Jane's father. When she catches the young couple in a forbidden kiss, Alva Jane is beaten, imprisoned, and married off to a violent older man. Throughout her degradation, she does not lose hope for escape, and her critical faculties continue to develop, despite the pressure to "keep sweet" and obedient to the dominant men. Carol Lynch Williams's The Chosen One (St. Martin's, 2009) is primarily a thriller based on escape from a cult. Shelley Hrdlitschka's Sister Wife (Orca, 2008) takes a more layered look at the loyalties that bind girls to family and compound. Like these books, Greene's novel portrays a girl who ultimately leaves home and polygamy behind. It is both accessible and compelling.—Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781439157466
Publisher:
Simon Pulse
Publication date:
03/09/2010
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
311,783
Lexile:
930L (what's this?)
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


PROLOGUE

“Alva Jane, meet me behind the barn before dark,
I have something important to tell you.…”

I CLOSED MY EYES AT THE MEMORY OF JOSEPH JOHN’S face, flushed with excitement as he whispered those words to me—the words that changed my life forever. Beside the barn washed white by the sun, Joseph John had taken my hand and said the words I had been waiting to hear. His father had agreed to our marriage; he planned to speak to my father and the prophet that very evening.

I knew I shouldn’t do it, that it was wrong, but I felt a rush of such excitement and joy that I couldn’t help it: I kissed him quickly, my lips brushing lightly over his, feeling their softness and searching as he leaned in to me. And then came Sister Cora’s voice and a rough hand on my collar. I lost my balance and fell headlong into the nightmare I am living now.

One kiss brought me here, locked in this pitch-black root cellar beneath the barn. I shivered; the evening temperature always drops in the desert. I heard the scurrying of rats overhead and moved away from the corner where I had been crouching. I was unable to lean or lie down, my legs felt stiff, my knees raw. I could feel the welts on my legs and back oozing blood. The sacred undergarments beneath my cotton dress stuck to the open wounds; each movement brought a stinging pain.

I closed my eyes to block out the vision of Joseph John being forced into Tom Pruitt’s truck, the men pinning his arms behind him. And then my own father, Eldon Ray, in the back stall of the barn, wielding his belt, swinging it overhead and bringing it down upon my back.… My mother holding my wrists in a strong grip, looking at me with eyes shining bright and metallic. Was she suffering with me … or was she satisfied? Whatever she felt, she did nothing to stop my pain, even when I cried out to her.

Somewhere in the midnight silence, I heard the wild, frenzied cries of the coyotes as they closed in on their prey. The insane yipping and howling echoed off the red rocks and desolate plains of the Utah desert. My heart beat faster and the blood rushed to my head. I knew how the prey felt in that terrible moment: trapped, helpless. I lay on my stomach, pressing my face against the cool dirt floor, letting exhaustion take over. I felt something scurry over my leg but I did not bother to shake it off. Perhaps I will sleep and never wake up; perhaps God will deliver me from the life that lies before me … or restore me to the life I knew just a few months earlier.…

© 2010 Michele Dominguez Greene

Meet the Author

Michele Dominguez Greene is the author of Keep Sweet and Chasing the Jaguar. She is active in numerous writing and literacy workshops with inner city kids throughout Southern California, and speaks regularly at conferences around the country. She has published articles in the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Animal Wellness Magazine, and Cuerpo Magazine, and has had a long-standing, successful career as an actress, appearing in television, film, and theater. She lives in Los Angeles.

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Keep Sweet 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Alva Jane has grown up and forever known the world of Pineridge, a FLDS community in the borders of Utah. The Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints have treated her well, and through all that she's known, they've been right. Holy. And what's more, she's caught the eye of the sweetest boy in the community - Joseph John. When she realizes he shares these unguarded feelings for her as well, her life just seems to be happier and happier. After all, Joseph John has had dreams about being together. If he goes to the prophet, he can eventually have her as his wife. His first wife. But when a new couple moves in to Pineridge, and the wife is less than thrilled to adjust to everything, things get worse. Suddenly, Alva Jane finds herself in a world of increasing clarity. Her father has his eyes on a loose girl of sixteen - and her mother, already fighting with seven other wives for her spot as top affection holder, isn't too pleased. And the brother of the prophet discovers his wife trying to escape - leading Alva Jane and her half-sister to witness her being punished in the name of the Lord. Things only get worse. And when Alva Jane finds herself in a sect scarier than ever before, the motto 'Keep sweet' doesn't seem so innocent anymore. And neither do the people. Books involving polygamist religions and these types of troubled faiths are always hard to judge. On one hand, these stories are interesting to me, because they handle the importance of questioning and open faith, the importance of fair treatment, and many branches of psychological issues. Plus, more often than not, these cults and religions often have dire consequences involving the children at the heart of the community. While I find these to be positives to the plot, it may very well make other people feel uncomfortable. Rape, abuse, abandonment, and brain washing are all big parts of this novel. But if the reader can suck in their fears and questions, they are bound to find a book that is both compelling and an important look into the cult ideals we hear about, but never truly see first-hand. Alva Jane is a protagonist who's hard to pin down. Greene's writing isn't bad, though it suffers from sometimes telling more than showing. However, the first-person narrative of Alva Jane is never really awkward, and the characters manage to come off the page pretty well, though some of the wives tend to blend together. Not that juggling so many secondary characters is easy by any means. The important characters are done well, though they manage sprinklings of depth that could have been expanded upon. What's most important is that through all of Alva Jane's hardships, the reader feels immense disappointment if she fails; triumph if she succeeds. More than once I found myself wondering how I came to care so much about her escaping her life - because you really don't see the growing affection with the character so easily. While Greene showed a lot of strong points, her book could have been longer. The story was plotted well and it never had a dull moment, but she could have expanded more on her other characters and been better off later on for it. Also, sometimes it got slow if there were many paragraphs between dialogue and action. Usually the pace wasn't bad, but the times were noticeable when it was. This is not a book for everyone.... Read the full review at www.teensreadtoo.com
Annie Tressler More than 1 year ago
this is a great and extremely interesting story the charayters are well developed and add a lot of depth. if only the ending were more developed..... leaves you with some questions..... overall a must must must read!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The story was very well put together! The examples really made you feel like you were right in the story! It was really neat to sort of be on the inside of an FLDS compound. I wish the ending had been a little more thought out, but overall, it drew me in with every word!
JessicaPoff More than 1 year ago
Extremely good book to read. One that is hard to put down once you get started however once finished it leaves you with a lot of questions and wonderment. Sure wish this book would become a series that will answer what the book left behind.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've always been interested in reading about diverse cultures and religions, so when I picked up this book I decided it was a must read. I finished it in two days and I'm not even really sure where to begin. I won't bother to give a description of the book considering everyone else has. I highly recommend this book if you're interested in learning more about the FLDS.... Culture... but I will warn you that it can be very disturbing and intense at some points. I finished reading it yesterday and I still can't believe these terrible things are still going on today. I'm giving this story four stars because I think it was very well structured and from what else I've studied, the facts are also correct. Not only that, but it was a quick read even though I feel like I've gain a lot of knowledge and I never got bored. My only problem is that you don't really *SPOILERS* find out about Alva's life after leaving this cult and I fell like that could make a very interesting second book or the author could have made the book longer. Also, it was well written, but I did feel like it was rushed sometimes and that it didn't go into too many details about each character. Again, this is a very informational and fast paced book, but it's also very intense and I felt myself squirming in my seat on a few parts. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone. I wouldn't consider it one of my favorites, but it was a very eye-opening experience :).
cutecupcake More than 1 year ago
This story really has a lot of depth and complexity. It paints a vivid picture of a girl living within the confines of an FLDS community and leaves you in suspense for most of the book. The characters have a lot of depth which helps you understand the FLDS. In one light I really loved the ending, but I wished it would've gone a little further in depth.
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CleoReads More than 1 year ago
wonderful