Born Again

Born Again

by Kelly Kerney

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Overview

What happens when a Bible Quiz Champion takes on Darwin? Mel, a faith-filled Pentecostal, has the chance to escape Slow Rapids, Indiana, by attending academic summer camp. The only catch? She has to read forbidden tomes like The Origin of Species . So she forges the permission slip, promising God she’ll bring him a lost soul in exchange.

Mel conscientiously uses her Biblical expertise to argue Darwin’s theories, but meanwhile begins to realize that her parents, her pastor, and her church aren’t what she thought. She zealously battles demons every day—lascivious heathens at school, the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, her backsliding brother and sister. But now, suddenly, she must also conquer the doubts of her own heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780156031455
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/05/2006
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 322
Sales rank: 989,865
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)
Lexile: 920L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

KELLY KERNEY received a BA from Bowdoin College and an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, where she was awarded the Nicholas Sparks postgraduate fellowship. Raised in a Pentecostal church, she is twenty-six years old and lives in Richmond, Virginia.

Read an Excerpt

Born Again


By Kerney, Kelly

Harvest Books

Copyright © 2006 Kerney, Kelly
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0156031450


I.
Choose Life,
Your Mother Did
The "Morality Check" abstinence rally was silent, everyone waiting for me to finish my pledge, but somehow I had forgotten the words. I had practiced for weeks these three simple sentences, but now, squinting in the spotlight at the crowded gymnasium, the last one escaped me. Something about intimacy and God. I improvised.
"And in pledging my purity, I promise to be intimate with no one but God."
Silence. And then applause. Pastor Lyle ushered me away from the microphone and to the side of the stage. Squinting out into the audience, I tried to locate my parents, but it was impossible to see individuals. These hundreds of people blended together into a vague gray mass that reminded me of a sleeping animal-- a twitch somewhere, a noise every now and then, but still a single entity.
I stood in the shadows of the stage, watching Tessa Goodman make her pledge. She said it flawlessly, and she annunciated the last sentence like the punch line of some joke: "And in pledging my purity, I promise to be intimate with no one until I am joined with my husband in holy matrimony by God."
She took Pastor Lyle's arm, and I watched them walk over to me. She was smiling and her eyes were set about an inch to the left of my head. Bitch, I said to myself, but immediatelyrepented. Pastor Lyle gave me a disappointed look as if he'd heard my thoughts. Why, I wondered, did that word pop into my head just now? I repented again, biting the inside of my cheek until it bled, to show God I meant it.
I had no idea how I had forgotten that last sentence, but I figured I got it close enough. I just forgot the marriage part, but everyone knew that anyway. Still, I was baffled. My memory was impeccable. I was the county Bible Quiz Champion. I could recite entire chapters of the Bible on command. And Tessa Goodman was no better than an idiot.
I watched all eleven of the girls recite their pledges. I had been first, for some reason that Pastor Lyle never made clear, although I had a good guess. He knew I was special, that I, above all these silly girls, would take a pledge to God seriously. When I was a baby, Pastor Lyle had prophesied over me, had told my parents that I was destined to do great works for God. These other girls just wanted to prance around onstage in pretty dresses.
They all looked elegant in the spotlight, and I watched Pastor Lyle escort each of them to a line next to me. It was like a beauty pageant, watching them in their new dresses. But I knew I didn't look like this. I was wearing a dress that was too big in the chest, that fell at an awkward length above my ankles. I ended up in one of my sister's old dresses, which had been white and puffy on her years ago, but on me was dingy and deflated, like old curtains. I looked down at myself, realizing for the first time that abstinence for me was not a choice but my destiny.
After we were all lined up, the spotlight found Pastor Lyle, leaving us in darkness. He was standing behind the podium, looking out at the audience. I could see the back of his body and his profile. Millions of dust particles swirled through the light that surrounded him, as if his intention to speak were enough to disrupt the tranquillity of things. He didn't even clear his throat before he started.
"Our nation's youth are under attack," he said in a somber voice that was just loud enough to reach the people in the back. "Our youth"-- he thrust an accusing finger backwards at us girls without looking-- "are precious to God. God has a plan for them. And I can tell you that plan does not involve AIDS, pregnancy, sterility, poverty, alcohol abuse, cervical cancer, and death." The audience jumped to life, clapping and yelling as Pastor Lyle put his hands out, as if to say he was just getting started. "Satan has infiltrated our culture and overtaken the media." He stopped to let this one sink in.
"Before a child in this country turns eighteen, she will have seen ninety thousand instances of premarital relations without consequences. This," he yelled, banging a fist on the podium, "this is what I mean when I say our youth are under attack."
There was more cheering. I was fourteen years old. How much premarital sex had I been exposed to already? The math quickly jumbled in my head. I tried to recall the last instance of premarital sex I had seen on television. Last week at my best friend Beth's house, I had seen a movie where two unmarried real-estate agents had sex. They were horizontal and rolling around in someone else's bed, yelling each other's names like curse words. Then he bit her shoulder. Afterward they lay there, the sheets pulled up to their armpits, talking about the tricks they used to sell houses. Essential oils on the lightbulbs, a baseball mitt left on the porch. There were no consequences at all. They seemed pretty pleased with themselves. I stared at the back of Pastor Lyle, watching his knees bobbing in excitement as he wound himself up for whatever he was going to say next. It was incredible to watch the Spirit move through him-- his legs were working like crazy, but the upper half of him didn't move.
"God's plan for our children does not involve suicide and abortion. God's plan involves a man and woman, brought together under Him, to be made into one flesh. God made sex," he said, letting that word come out of his mouth like a puff of smoke. He paused to savor it, and I thought I would fall over right there onstage. I had never heard Pastor Lyle say that word before, and now it lingered there, in the air in front of me, just asking me to breathe. I resisted the urge and began picking at a hangnail that I had worked almost all the way down to my knuckle.
"Man and woman were created by God to complement each other. They were made to be together. Men need sexual fulfillment, recreation, physical attraction, admiration, and domestic support. Women need affection, conversation, honesty, financial support, and family commitment. Men and women," he said again, "are meant to be together." He scanned the audience, as if daring anyone to oppose him. "And so God created sex, but He created it with boundaries. When it occurs within these boundaries, sex is"-- he paused to choose his word-- "awesome."
I couldn't hold my breath any longer and let it out with a small sigh as I tried to imagine Pastor Lyle having awesome sex with his wife. They were horizontal, wrapped up in sheets, biting each other's shoulders. I wondered if it was a sin to picture married people having sex. I repeated my pledge over in my head, just to make sure God knew I was sincere.
"But sex outside the boundary of marriage is terribly, terribly destructive." I imagined the roof falling in on those sexy TV real-estate agents, their feet sticking out from under the rubble on the bed.
"But these girls," he said, pointing again at us. "These girls have been educated in resisting temptation. They have learned that the only way to resist the attack of the enemy is through Bible study, participating in the Church, and reading wholesome books that strengthen their faith." The crowd loved this one. As they clapped, I thought about Wuthering Heights, if Pastor Lyle would consider that one wholesome.
"These girls have made a commitment to preserve their bodies in the name of Christ. They have signed a contract with Him."
Copyright 2006 by Kelly Kerney
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and
retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.
Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work
should be submitted online at harcourt.com/contact or mailed
to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,
6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.


Continues...

Excerpted from Born Again by Kerney, Kelly Copyright © 2006 by Kerney, Kelly. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews

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Born Again 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Jaylia3 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Oh, this is a beautifully written novel. Sometimes I would leave my bookmark back a page or two so I could reread particularly gorgeous passages. I think this is so far Kelly Kerney's only book and I hope she writes more. Mel, a young evangelical teenager, goes from faith and conviction to reflection, expanding awareness and doubt. The Origin of Species is assigned reading for Mel's invitation-only academic camp, but she knows her parents and God would not approve. Mel hides the book from her parents and bargains with God--she'll bring her best friend Beth to the church play so she can be saved (Mel wants to see Beth in heaven anyway). One book for one soul. Plus, since Mel knows her Bible inside and out(she's the Bible Quiz Champion), she decides she should read Darwin to disprove him. The characters, especially Mel's mixed-belief family, and settings, including Mammoth Cave and the vaguely sinister chemical factory where her brother works, all serve the story well. This is a wonderful book-artistic, intelligent and compassionate
bridgetZsweet on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The jacket doesn't accurately portray the struggles the speaker encounters. I felt let down at the end - the arch doesn't live up to the promise it makes in beginning chapters.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Starting this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. It deals with religion, so I thought it might be preachy. It talks about Darwin, so I was expecting some strong opinions on the subject--everyone has them. BORN AGAIN is Kelly Kerney's first novel, so I had no expectations as to the writing. In the quote on the back cover, Mel (the main character) talks about using the Bible to prove Darwin wrong. I, personally, am not a religious person and believe Darwin had the right idea, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to enjoy this book.

Wow, was I ever wrong. This book deals wonderfully with the admittedly heavy topics of both Darwinian science and religion (Mel belongs to an Evangelical Pentecostal family), without being at all preachy. Kerney isn't trying to convince the reader of anything; she is only showing one girl's search for the truth, and in that she raises some thought-provoking questions about science, religion, and life.

When the novel begins, Mel is an enthusiastic, religious, and smart teenager. She not only wants to do what's right in her own life, she wants to save everyone else, too. She believes every word from Pastor Lyle's mouth as if it came from God himself (which she believes it does). She would never dream of going against what the church and her parents teach her...Right?

When Mel receives a scholarship to academic summer camp, with that comes a reading list. She isn't sure that Pastor Lyle would approve of some of the books on it, like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but they're not on the "blasphemy list," so she reads most of the books.

And then she comes to Charles Darwin's THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. She knows that her family and church would certainly not approve of her reading this. Secretly, she borrows a copy from her best friend, Beth, and starts to read. At first, Mel is determined to use the Bible to prove Darwin wrong. She's sure it can be done.

However, as she reads, what Darwin says begins to make sense. This, coupled with some discoveries about the past of her own family, has her doubting some of what she's been told. If what her parents have told her about their own lives is a lie, then who knows what else is a lie? Mel also finds that Darwin and God don't have to be mutually exclusive. This is an idea that has never occurred to her; this is not what she has been taught. Mel's beliefs are being challenged, and now she has to figure out exactly what she believes before she can defend or disprove anything.

BORN AGAIN is a fascinating and brilliantly written look inside the Christian fundamentalism that is so prevalent in America today. It is a thought-provoking story about one girl, but it addresses so much more than just what Mel is dealing with. The front cover blurb on the book says that BORN AGAIN is "enough to make an atheist pray--that this is not America's future," speaking of the Christian fundamentalism addressed in the book. It's true; these people are so sure of their beliefs and so extreme that it is a little scary at times. As Christian fundamentalism seems to become ever more popular in America, this book is a must-read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Starting this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. It deals with religion, so I thought it might be preachy. It talks about Darwin, so I was expecting some strong opinions on the subject--everyone has them. BORN AGAIN is Kelly Kerney's first novel, so I had no expectations as to the writing. In the quote on the back cover, Mel (the main character) talks about using the Bible to prove Darwin wrong. I, personally, am not a religious person and believe Darwin had the right idea, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to enjoy this book. Wow, was I ever wrong. This book deals wonderfully with the admittedly heavy topics of both Darwinian science and religion (Mel belongs to an Evangelical Pentecostal family), without being at all preachy. Kerney isn't trying to convince the reader of anything she is only showing one girl's search for the truth, and in that she raises some thought-provoking questions about science, religion, and life. When the novel begins, Mel is an enthusiastic, religious, and smart teenager. She not only wants to do what's right in her own life, she wants to save everyone else, too. She believes every word from Pastor Lyle's mouth as if it came from God himself (which she believes it does). She would never dream of going against what the church and her parents teach her...Right? When Mel receives a scholarship to academic summer camp, with that comes a reading list. She isn't sure that Pastor Lyle would approve of some of the books on it, like WUTHERING HEIGHTS, but they're not on the 'blasphemy list,' so she reads most of the books. And then she comes to Charles Darwin's THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES. She knows that her family and church would certainly not approve of her reading this. Secretly, she borrows a copy from her best friend, Beth, and starts to read. At first, Mel is determined to use the Bible to prove Darwin wrong. She's sure it can be done. However, as she reads, what Darwin says begins to make sense. This, coupled with some discoveries about the past of her own family, has her doubting some of what she's been told. If what her parents have told her about their own lives is a lie, then who knows what else is a lie? Mel also finds that Darwin and God don't have to be mutually exclusive. This is an idea that has never occurred to her this is not what she has been taught. Mel's beliefs are being challenged, and now she has to figure out exactly what she believes before she can defend or disprove anything. BORN AGAIN is a fascinating and brilliantly written look inside the Christian fundamentalism that is so prevalent in America today. It is a thought-provoking story about one girl, but it addresses so much more than just what Mel is dealing with. The front cover blurb on the book says that BORN AGAIN is 'enough to make an atheist pray--that this is not America's future,' speaking of the Christian fundamentalism addressed in the book. It's true these people are so sure of their beliefs and so extreme that it is a little scary at times. As Christian fundamentalism seems to become ever more popular in America, this book is a must-read. **Reviewed by: Jocelyn Pearce
Guest More than 1 year ago
Every year, it seems, there are coming of age stories being published and they all seem to deal with the same worn-out topics: growing up is hard to do, dealing with your parents stinks, and of course, the big one, learning about sex and adult relationships. But Kelly Kerney's 'Born Again' takes the coming of age story and turns it into a spiritual journey. She uses her adolescent protagonist -- don't teenagers, after all, have the most open minds? -- to grapple with whether or not to believe in evolution or God. This is a very topical subject these days, but whereas most people on either side of the issue end up with their heads in the sand, Kerney has written about it with honesty, integrity, and beauty. I won't say where she ends up, but if you read this book with an open mind and go along for the journey, you may just end up a better person for it. At the least, you'll understand the issue and learn where the other side is coming from. This book does what a good book should do: it doesn't preach. Instead, it sings. Recommended for teenagers and adults alike.