PW called this novel, in which a rebellious high schooler starts his own church, the Chutengodians, who worship the "Ten-legged God" their town's water tower, "provocative." Ages 12-up. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Jason Bock is not exactly searching for the sacred. He is coping with having been flattened by Henry Stegg, while looking under the water tower for snails for his friend Shin's evolving science project. On his back, staring up at the orb overhead, a simple truth floods Jason's brain"Water is life." In the face of the Teen Power Outreach program his anxious father has cornered him into, Jason finds himself inventing a new religionthe Church of the Ten-Legged God. Hautman captures a convincing teenaged anti-logic that is as wacky as it is charming. Shin provides a different energy altogether, grounded in weighty calculation and a penchant for philosophical riffs on Genesis, both of which culminate in a far darker outcome than Jason could ever have predicted. As up becomes down, Henry moves from stereotypical bully to reckless collaborator, and the numbers of the faithful grow unexpectedly. All this greatly increases the complexity of Jason's social life, until his lies of expediency and their consequences threaten to bring far more than his credibility crashing down. Hautman takes his ragtag cast of characters from humor to the brink of disaster, raising some water tower-sized questions in the process. The subplot of Jason's relationship with his father is resolved in a realistic enough manner, but the real strength of this novel lies in Hautman's sympathetic rendering of the everyday anarchy of adolescence. 2004, Simon and Schuster, Ages 12 up.
Agnostic and soon to be atheist, Jason Bock is bored with Catholicism and especially with the Teen Power Outreach discussion group. At one of the weekly meetings, hoping to shock group leader "Just Al" Anderson and to impress any cute girls in attendance, Jason announces that he does not believe in God. He now worships the Ten-legged One, a deity that just happens to be the town water tower. Jason founds a new religion, the Church of the Ten-legged God, and half seriously, half mockingly begins proselytizing for his new faith. Among his friends and acquaintances, Jason finds an unlikely group of recruits to his new faith. Dubbing themselves the Chutengodians, Jason, perky Magda, stolid Dan, eccentric Shinn, and violent Henry soon find that ideas, especially religious ones, can take on lives of their own. As Jason struggles to keep his new religion pure, Shinn labors over writing the Chutengodian bible, and Henry plots ways to make the cult exciting-and dangerous. Jason learns that it might be easier to create a religion than to control it, especially when the group holds its first ceremony atop the water tower, an act that has dangerous consequences. Suddenly the Church of the Ten-legged God is a deadly and terrifying cult. Readers will find Jason's first-person narrative compelling and provocative. Although Hautman chooses an atypical subject for a young adult book, he succeeds in creating a flawlessly paced and painfully realistic tale of the power and influence of religion. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2004, Simon & Schuster, 208p.,Ages 12 to 18.
Jamie S. Hansen
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2004: The main character in Godless is a 15-year-old boy named Jason Bock, a smart and smart-alecky only child who is driving his parents crazy. Jason is a bit of a geek, whose best friend Shin is even geekier, if possible; but the two are brilliant. They have spent many hours since they met designing graphic novels and pursuing strange obsessions, so their idea of starting a new religion doesn't come completely out of the blue. Jason, however, sees their new religion as a satirical poke at Catholicism, and about as meaningless as he has decided Catholicism is. (Beware Jason's comments about certain aspects of Catholicism; for instance, his remark that if you buy the belief in transubstantiation, then the communion wafer is "a sliver of Jesus meat.") The adventures that Jason and Shin start in motion with their new religion are the stuff that will get YAs' attention. The basic tenet of their faith is that water is the most important part of life on earth and they will worship the town's water tower"The Ten-Legged One." This involves midnight excursions to the tower and climbing the tower, which interests several other teenagers who become members of the faith. They egg one another on to more dangerous activities, one involving a strange baptism ceremony swimming in the million-gallon tank of water at the top of the tower. Eventually there is an accident, their "crimes" are discovered, and there is one result no one could have predicted: Shin has to be hospitalized because he starts to really believe in this new religion and is losing touch with reality. Inventive, frequently funny and sometimes scary, this YA novel has a lotto offer readers. Note: Godless is an ALA Best Book for YAs, and it is a winner of the National Book Award. KLIATT Codes: JS*Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2004, Simon & Schuster, 198p., Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 7 Up-Jason is a smart 15-year-old, an agnostic-leaning-toward-atheism, who resists following in the footsteps of his devoutly Catholic father. Getting clocked under the water tower by the nasty and unpredictable Henry leads Jason and his friend Shin to combine their talents to posit a new religion. "Chutengodianism" sanctifies water, the source of all life, as manifested by the Ten-Legged God, aka that same million-gallon water tower. Creating the creed on the fly, Jason soon gathers a handful of acolytes, including his former nemesis. Their midnight pilgrimage to the top of the tower for worship transmutes into an impromptu baptism when Henry hacksaws through the padlock. Their swim rouses sexy thoughts about Magda, stripped to her panties and bra, balanced soon after by panic when it seems they might be trapped. Regaining the top of the tank, Henry slips and sustains severe injuries crashing onto a catwalk below. Fortunately for him, the authorities have already arrived. The Church is busted and the faithful face new trials and temptations. These are fun, wacky, interesting characters. While chuckling aloud may be common in the early chapters, serious issues dominate the latter stages of the book. The rivalry between Jason and Henry for the attentions of Magda, Jason's unrepentant certainty that doing what he sees as right is more important than following his parents' rules, and Shin's apparent continued belief in the tenets he helped create are thought-provoking and disturbing. Jason is left to ponder the meaning of a religion that has only himself as a member.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason's mother is a hypochondriac, his father is religious, and best friend Shin is a snail-collecting freak. Bored in his parent-mandated Catholic teen group, Jason creates Chutengodianism: the Church of the Ten-legged God, worshipers of the town water tower. Jason is Founder and Head Kahuna of his joke religion, Shin is First Keeper of the Sacred Text, and friends Dan and Magda are recruited as disciples. Amusing at first, their mini-cult goes sour when Jason invites thuggish Henry-who knows how to climb the water tower-to join the Chutengodians. Shin sulks, and Henry leads a dangerous midnight swim in the water tower that results in injury, police discovery, and punishment. Now Jason is grounded for life, Dan and Magda won't speak to him, and Henry and his bullying cohorts have co-opted Chutengodianism and made it crass. Worse, Shin seems dangerously unhinged-is he taking Chutengodianism seriously? Jason's explorations of faith, belief, and religion, told in a compelling and imaginative voice, will leave him a solitary, ostracized prophet. Thought-provoking and unique. (Fiction. YA)