Kyra Leigh Carlson is almost 14 years old. Kyra loves books. Kyra is in love with Joshua. But those two loves don't matter because Kyra is one of The Chosen Ones. The Chosen Ones are a isolated, polygamous cult. And, Kyra, along with her 21 brothers and sisters, her three mothers, her father and everybody else in the Compound are under the rule of the Prophet Childs. Under his "reign," any book except the bible has been outlawed and removed from the Compound. It is also forbidden to be seen with, let alone touch or kiss, a sect member of the opposite sex. With her secretive trips to the Ironton County Mobile Library on Wheels for contraband reading and her clandestine midnight meetings with 16-year-old Joshua, Kyra is already wallowing in the guilt of her sins. When her family is family is visited by the Prophet and his Apostles it is assumed that it is to announce that her father will become a new apostle for The Chosen Ones. They are all stunned, none more than Kyra, when the announcement is that Prophet Childs has had a vision and it is of Kyra becoming the seventh wife to her 60-plus-year-old uncle. With the books from the Mobile Library (like Harry Potter and Bridge to Terabithia) opening her eyes to a bigger world than what she experiences closed off in her compound and Joshua's love opening her heart to more possibilities in life as well as the abject horror and repulsion she feels at becoming a wife to her uncle, Kyra begins a struggle within herself on whether she should stay with the family she loves and the life that she knows or run from the horrible future ahead into something completely unknown.
Jenna Lamia hit just the right note as narrator for young Kyra (she is also the voice of Grace in Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy Falls series) with a sweet, almost innocence to her tone. She was also able to emote the intense feelings that Kyra had throughout the book--anger, astonishment, horror, outright fear, love and caring. I felt caught up in Kyra's life and plight the entire time I was listening to this book.
As for the story itself, Kyra was a wonderful character. She was mature for her age--mostly because she only got to be a child until the next baby in her family came along--and she wasn't afraid to reach for what she wanted. Even though she had been taught it was a sin to read anything outside of the bible she found the courage to sneak out of the compound and find Patrick and his mobile library which opened up a whole new world to her. And even though she knew it was a sin to be with Joshua--sneaking around, meeting after curfew and kissing--she met with him because it was a time she could have to herself and have the sole attention of one person who had high meaning to her. I can't imagine how she must have felt always surround by her many siblings and mothers and having to continuously help attend to her younger siblings. She did carve out a notch in one of the olive trees near her house to hide in and do her secretive reading in and I think that part is what stood out to me most--she had to cut away the thorns on the branches of the tree and hide her book in the tree to get some alone time.
Carol Lynch Williams wrote a very real sounding 13-year-old that was dealing with some very extraordinary circumstances. Knowing very little about the kind of life Kyra was living it was interesting to see the different ends of the spectrum of life in a isolated, uber-religious cult (from the loving family to the self-righteous and dictatorial leaders). And while I realize that it was all fictionalized I do know there were some aspects of truth to the life Kyra was living. The reason I know that and what really made the book just a little bit more special was the interview of Carol Lynch Williams after the book's conclusion. She discussed what pushed her to write the book and where she got the information. She said a lot of it came from news reports (like 20/20) and other research materials. She was able to get some first-hand insight from her sister (who was unwittingly almost part of a polygamous relationship), a member of their local community who had left a similar multiple marriage lifestyle and from a boyfriend of one of her daughters who was the son of a man who had multiple wives and had decided that lifestyle wasn't for him. While Lynch admitted that the boyfriend hadn't revealed a lot of information and wasn't very forthcoming about his life in a polygamous family she did say that his response to Kyra's story to her daughter was, "How did your mom know so much about my life?" For me, that was when the astonishment of what Kyra had to overcome to live a "normal" life became just a little bit more real than fictional.
The audio on this trailer appears to be from the audiobook so you can get a little taste of how listening to it might be.