Thought-provoking theological, ethical, and social questions confront 16-year-old narrator Ani and her family as personal tragedy and the exposure of long-held family secrets exacerbate the everyday challenges of a family-run business, ADHD, and awakening adolescent sexuality. Named for Saint Anne, one of Quebec’s patron saints, Ani strives to live up to her namesake, but struggles with un-saintly feelings of irritation and envy toward her exuberant, impulsive, and sensual younger sister, Colette. An eclectic assortment of neighbors—a reclusive, wheelchair-bound amputee; an herbalist raising a playboy teenage grandson; and a newly arrived, handsome priest who turns out to be a special friend of Ani’s mother—provide mystery and intrigue. They also play significant roles in Ani’s life, awakening her self-awareness and her understanding of spiritual struggles faced by previous generations. In this sensitive examination of the complexities of faith, Polak (The Middle of Everywhere) captures the perplexing nuances of a town whose economy depends on and caters to pilgrim tourists, which affects the beliefs of local inhabitants, creating both skeptics and devout believers. Ages 12–up. (Apr.)
"The setting of each one [of Polak's novels is] as eye-opening and world-expanding as the last...Few will be able to resist the pacing of this very personal mystery."
"Polak maintains a tone that is understanding and contemplative as she probes the questions, doubts and fears of many of the characters, both teen and adult, in her work...[An] outstanding, dare I say heavenly, young adult novel! Highly Recommended."
"Ani's characters is great because she's obviously trying to come to terms with growing up, her friends' and sister's emergent sexuality, problems within her family, and uniting this with her Catholic faith. These struggles make her a more interesting and sympathetic character."
This delightful novel mixes modern-day issues and problems with age-old beliefs about miracles and faith. Ani, her parents, and her wild sister, Colette, all falter at some point, some longer than others, but come back around to the stability and consistency that only true faith can provide.
Jackie Warkentien, Youth Services Librarian
"A wonderful coming-of-age story...Polak's writing is smooth and easy to follow, and there are enough plot twists to keep you flipping pages to find out what happens next. Her imagery and descriptions of the beautiful buildings in Sainte-Anne made it easy to picture the town and follow Ani throughout her journey...A beautiful book! The cover is simple but stunning, and sure to catch your eye...I definitely recommend it to teens who are coming of age who are unsure how religion can work within society and culture nowadays."
Beyond the Bookshelf blog
Miracleville's use of Ani's voice, present tense, and frequent dialogue propels the plot, and allows for identification with this girl's quest for identity...The tone is brisk, often comical and straightforward, yet there is a keen sense of observation in the precise detail."
"I fell in love with Ani almost from the beginning of this book. Yes, she's a stereotypical 'good girl,' but she's also struggling with her goodness and the desire for more...[This is] a quiet, character-driven novel about a teenage girl trying to find her place in the world...This book will find an audience with the many girls I know who love contemporary realistic fiction stories."
"Ani and Colette are such wonderful characters, it's a simple joy just to spend time with them in their small town. Polak writes candidly about Ani's intimate feelings without any exploitation or sensationalism.
Miracleville is not only a great book for girls, but also for boys who may actually learn to understand girls." Louis Sachar
"An involving coming-of-age novel for girls who love realistic fiction...All of the characters are skillfully drawn, and each one of them faces personal challenges and struggles that are very realistically portrayed. The book will encourage students to think deeply about issues that many other books treat superficially...While religion plays a strong part in the story, it is presented in a very open-ended, broad way that will speak to all readers, whether they are religious or not."
Tri-State YA Book Review Committee
"There were shocking events and heart-wrenching scenes, all leading to a realistic and fitting ending...The characters were believable and the plot kept me turning the pages."
Washington State Young Adult Review Group
"Ani and Colette are such wonderful characters, it’s a simple joy just to spend time with them in their small town. Polak writes candidly about Ani’s intimate feelings without any exploitation or sensationalism.
Miracleville is not only a great book for girls, but also for boys who may actually learn to understand girls."
"This delightful novel mixes modern-day issues and problems with age-old beliefs about miracles and faith. Ani, her parents, and her wild sister, Colette, all falter at some point, some longer than others, but come back around to the stability and consistency that only true faith can provide."
Berwyn Public Library - Jackie Warkentien
"Dealing with themes of religion, faith, miracles, and family,
Miracleville is a thoughtful book for mid teen readers who are looking for a deeper read."
Miracleville is set in Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupre, a small town outside Quebec where many Catholics travel to seek miracles. Ani and her sister, Collette, help run the family tourist shop, Saint Souvenirs. In the family dynamic, Ani is good and faithful like her mother, and Collette is unrestrained and nonreligious like her father. An accident at Saint Souvenirs sends Ani's mom to the hospital and severely tests Ani's faith. As the days in the hospital pass, Collette begins acting out and ends up turning to her boyfriend for love and comfort. At the same time, Ani develops feelings for a priest who grew up with her mom. When Ani's mom comes home from the hospital paralyzed from the waist down, the family relations become strained and old secrets begin to unravel. Eventually, Ani learns that the priest on whom she has a crush is actually her biological father. The novel is steeped in Catholic rituals and traditions, which may be unfamiliar to some readers. While the book is not written at a lower reading level for reluctant readers, it is written with short, simple sentences. Polak packs many messages into Miraclevillefaith can fail you, parents are not what they seem to be, unprotected sex can lead to diseases, teenage drinking has consequences, and the Catholic Church should not judge homosexuality. The appeal of Miracleville is limited and will work best with teens living in rural areas and those familiar with Catholic traditions. Reviewer: Charla Hollingsworth
VOYA - Charla Hollingsworth
16-year old Ani and her younger sister, Collette, live in the Canadian town, Ste-Anne-de-Beaupre, a mecca for religious pilgrims who come to pray for miracles. Ani, religious like her mother, enjoys working in the family souvenir shop, but Collette prefers the company of boys. When a horrible accident paralyzes their mother from the waist down, the sisters' lives change drastically. Their usual positive and hopeful mother becomes depressed. Ani is uncomfortable helping her mother, while Collette seems unbothered. Also, a handsome priest, Father Francoeur, returns to their town with a past connection to their mother. During this time, Ani worries about her sister's relationship with Maxim, and when she discovers the relationship has become sexual, she steps in to help. As Ani's mother begins to cope with her paralysis, past secrets are revealed: secrets about their longtime hermit neighbor, Marcus, and secrets about Father Francoeur that cause Ani to question her family's love and more importantly her belief and trust in God. While the overall plot is predictable, the author uses religion as a backdrop to give the novel depth and cohesiveness. Themes of family, forgiveness and hope surge throughout the story. Reviewer: Jody Little
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Sixteen-year-old Ani, devout, straitlaced and anxious, could not be more different from her impious,free-spirited, sexually active15-year-old sister, Colette. Ani takes after her mother, who runs Saintly Souvenirs, a tourist shop in the pilgrim town of Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Quebec; Coletteis more like their nonbelieving dad. When Ani's mom is paralyzed in an accident, Ani turns to Father Francoeur, an old friend of her mother's newly returned from abroad.But Father Francoeur and Ani's mom have a shared past, and Ani's family is not quiteas it seems. It would be a better story without religion. The basilica setting and the pilgrims coming in hope of a miracle are interesting, and it's clear they're intended to mirror Ani's family, but, as it is portrayed here, faith is more platitudes and glow-in-the-dark Jesus statues than a changing holy force.Take away God, andboth story and characterswould seem more real and less distracted.When their father demands,"What about the God you love so much?...Where is He now, when you really need Him?" it feels like Catholic paint-by-numbers. This tale falls into an old trap: Good-girl Ani is not well-developed enough to be wholly sympathetic, while Colette, the miscreant, is the star. There are better books about religious identity out there; try
The Possibilities of Sainthood, by Donna Freitas (2008), for a start. (Fiction. 14 & up)