* Amazon Best Book of the Month August 2018 * New York Public Library Best Books 2018 *
Put an atheist in a strict Catholic school? Expect comedy, chaos, and an Inquisition. The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in debut author Katie Henry’s hilarious novel about a band of misfits who set out to challenge their school, one nun at a time. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Robyn Schneider.
When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism.
Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 7.70(h) x 1.20(d)|
|Age Range:||13 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Katie Henry is a writer living and working in New York City. She received her BFA in dramatic writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and is a published playwright, specializing in theater for young audiences. Her plays have been performed by high schools and community organizations in over thirty states. Heretics Anonymous is her first novel. You can find her online at www.katiehenrywrites.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
We’ve all heard the refrain – one doesn’t discuss politics or religion in polite company. For me, that has always meant that people are uncomfortable with differing opinions and difficult questions that truly mean they have to examine their own whys and hows of their faith (or support of a candidate). Personally, I think this book couldn’t have come at a better time - to give a smart and often hilarious set of arguments and struggles with faith, and why / how / who one actually believes in and why. Michael is a self-professed atheist, and he’s feeling much like a fish out of water as his father’s new job meant they’ve moved from all he knew, and now he’s at St. Clare’s, an upscale Catholic school. Aside from the usual shocks (new people, uniforms, rather strict code of conduct, religion class) he’s also finding that there are many students who are ‘ultra religious’, taking dogma and faith with their morning cornflakes, and he just doesn’t see it. He’s got questions, and none are easy, particularly when everyone seems to be on the same page. Oh well, there is Lucy, a serious believer BUT with one large hiccup – she wants to be a priest – far too radical for the current church. Through Lucy, he starts to discover the kids on the fringe – and the fact that everyone there is questioning, often with hilarious results, organized religion, beliefs, practices and taboos. Calling themselves the Heretics Anonymous, this little group is smart, funny, tolerant of other’s beliefs and ways of expression, but take the time to actually delve into the bigger questions – why we believe this, where are these beliefs the same or different and just what purpose is served by discriminating against one group or another because of what they believe, or are. Surprisingly enough, these kids manage to explore with humor and respect – it’s a clearly defined search for answers and how one comes to find their faith in something ‘bigger’ than us all – no matter what path one chooses to adopt. Not a title for those who are uncomfortable with questions directly related to the proclamations on everything from the pulpit, but a smart and clever way to view one’s faith, and that of others, in ways unexpected, with plenty of opportunities for further thought. Michael, as a narrator is rather bland and wanting to find a ‘fit’ in this new environment, and as such, he is a wonderful center point for all that surrounds him as questions are asked, debated and examined, giving them all the perspective of one who is, if not adamantly a non-believer, perhaps more unfamiliar with the whys and comforts of a belief in the often nebulous concepts of spirit, God and souls. What Henry has done here is started a discussion: a smart and cleverly couched discussion, that doesn’t provide THE answer, but a series of options for readers to take off on their own to discover more. And isn’t that just what we want for everything- the ability to have discussions, questions, answers and options to the issue that seems to be preeminent – why am I here, what is my purpose, what do I truly believe in. A read that is smart, clever and wholly engaging as it makes readers think, shows point and counterpoint, and offers a solid grounding in tolerance. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
I expected to like this book quite a bit since the synopsis sounded so hilarious, but I ended up falling completely in love with the story for a totally different reason than I anticipated. Heretics Anonymous starts out as a silly, fun story about some quirky teenagers in Catholic school whose beliefs deviate from the religion in one way or another, and decide to form a club to vent about their everyday struggles. But the book quickly turns into a much more serious look at the complications of religion, what it really means to believe in God (or a god), and the definitions of loyalty and forgiveness. I related so much to Michael, his internal dialogue is hilarious and had me cracking up out loud! The way he deals with a dysfunctional family is so painfully realistic, I’ve really never seen anything quite like it before in YA literature. I felt like Michael's family experiences a subdued and quiet form of dysfunction that a lot of middle-class American families experience. The problem lies between Michael and his father, who never takes into account what his children want when making executive decisions about their futures. Small but intense issues like lack of communication or the ability to apologize and expose yourself to family members are excellently portrayed and built up throughout the novel. But if you're interested in this book it's probably for the humor, not the sappy sad parts. And with each wacky side character that enters a scene, the wackier that scene is likely to be. All the kids in Heretics Anonymous are hilarious and contribute a unique subplot to the overall story, I loved seeing the different backgrounds that each kid comes from and hearing their alternate perspectives on religion. I think the author does a really commendable job at making this book accessible to people from all types of religious backgrounds despite the fact that the main character is an atheist. Obviously, if you identify as an atheist, you're more likely to relate to Michael and his issues. But if not with him, than certainly with one of the other kids who all bring fresh ideas to the table. (That being said, if you're Catholic, I really can't guarantee you won't be offended by this book. It's sort of the nature of the religious beast in this book, I'm afraid). If there was one thing that surprised me in this book more than its serious conversation on family and religion, it was the romance. From the synopsis, I expected a kitschy cute rom-com style romance where the characters lightly flirt and make silly conversation, then finally kiss each other at the end. But Lucy and Michael's relationship carries so much more weight than I anticipated. The two wrestle with their strong opinions on religion and society, comparing lessons in gender roles and revolution while internally grappling with their feelings for each other. They sound less like an OTP and more like debate team partners but I assure you that there are plenty of heart-melting scenes that'll make you root for Michael and Lucy. If you love books that are both sweet and serious, funny and important, gut-wrenching and uplifting all at the same time, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Heretics! It's easily one of my top favorite reads of 2018, and I'll be reading everything Henry publishes from now on!
I really liked the book and I'm all worried to talk about it, because I'm waiting for someone to pop out of the woodwork and tell me I'm a blasphemous sinner and that I'm going to Hell. Seriously. I'm jumpy. I wrote a really long version of this review for my blog on 10/22, and half of it was trying to explain my perspective and why I feel the way I do about this book and for people to please not yell at me. Religion is complicated like that - or maybe it was just the corner of religion where I was raised. Heretics Anonymous is a slice of life in Catholic School where, on the edges of social cliques, five not-perfect Catholics build a support group. Lucy is a staunch Catholic, but she wants to be a priest. Eden is a Celtic Reconstructionist. Avi is both Jewish and gay. Mark ... is Mark, not quite fitting in with the strict rules and traditions. And in comes Max the atheist. Max mixes everything up - not because he's an atheist (because I want to make that SO clear - Max's actions in this book are so emotionally driven and not related to religion or lack thereof) but because he's angry. Max is angry at his family and the stupid tie he has to wear and his LIFE. In general. And because of that, he makes some stupid choices. I think given the plot of this book, Katie Henry was pretty respectful to the religions she chose to represent, and it's refreshing to see so many in one place. I think it's really important to have these varied perspectives out there, and we should be able to talk about our beliefs without judging one another. The themes and content of Heretics Anonymous are really refreshing. The overall plot, which I'm just going to summarize as "Max falls and love and learns (the hard way) how to express himself" is not overly impressive, but I'm willing to forgive it because I like the place where it is set and all the little subplots. Most the characters are fantastic - Max is a jerk, frankly, but you can't love every protagonist. And I think Mark was a bit of a flat character at times, as well as Theresa (there was a moment where she ALMOST had depth, but basically she became Marianne in Easy A. But GENERALLY, I thought they were a good group that rounded out one another, and I really liked the side characters of Father Peter and Jenny. I really, really want to encourage people to give this book a chance, and to do so with an open mind. I think it's interesting and it's SO IMPORTANT to get some religious discussion and diversity out there. I really hope people give it a fair shot.
This book is important, and far more touching than I anticipated. Faith and religion are rarely touched-on subjects in YA, and I have so much respect for Katie Henry for writing characters both with and without a strong sense of what they believe in, and what they do not. The family dynamics were great, too. I actually teared up near the end.
Heretics Anonymous is the story of a group of ‘heretics’ in a Catholic school, narrated by the newest addition to the group, Michael. He has just moved into town reluctantly and hates his father for moving without giving their family any choices. He is also an atheist in a Catholic school, and there is a clash between his thinking and their beliefs, but he usually restrains himself to snarky comments. The group consists of Lucy, a devout Catholic who nevertheless doesn’t agree with the misogyny of the Catholic Church, Avi, a gay Jewish kid, Max, who is Korean and belongs to another church that he chose, and Eden, who worships a Celtic goddess. For them, the secret group is a way to rant about the frustrations of being at a Catholic school, the rigid nonsensical rules and anger about the misinformation the school spreads among their students. Michael’s constant snark when it comes to Catholic traditions is amusing, to say the least. When they decide to take things a little public, fighting back against the school rules and the lies they say about sex education, the atmosphere at the school becomes charged, to say the least. Some students find it amusing, some students also find courage to stand up for what they believe is right, but some students like Teresa, who comes from a Very Conservative family, think it is an attack on their religion and try to fight back. In the midst of this, the administration makes their grip on the rules stronger. Meanwhile, the Heretics are becoming closer friends, and Michael himself is hoping Lucy will date him. There is the question of him not believing in her faith, and wondering if she questions so much about it, why does she either. Eventually, in anger against his father, he does something very drastic against the school, and has to face the consequences of that as well as a confrontation with his father. Obviously the Heretics don’t entirely succeed in changing their school, but they do help other students speak up. The book also confronts the discrimination faced by minorities in such hateful spaces and how any action of resistance is seen as an attack on the majority’s values (major timely shade thrown on ‘Religious Task Forces’ – even if this book was written way before it) and how even Michael’s way of thinking is not entirely right. He learns to not dismiss someone’s faith just because he doesn’t agree with it, more like understand and give people the respect to believe something that gives them comfort. It does its best to give voice to all kinds of belief – Eden’s choosing a religion that she feels comfortable with, Avi choosing which parts of his religion make logical sense, Max just wanting something simple, Michael and Lucy who question the various tenets of Christianity together, as a non-believer and a believer. But along with religion, the understanding is extended to familial dynamics, how a parent’s parenting style may be affected by their own upbringing and the importance of communication to address grievances *side eyes myself*. On the whole, a nice snarky comedy about what rules to follow and what you should think twice over. Received an advance reader copy in exchange for a fair review from Katherine Tegen, via Edelweiss.