Friday, June 4, 2021

Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry


HERETICS ANONYMOUS was soooo frustrating because, like, 80% of the book was perfect and then the ending was-- hnnnng! The ending, it made me mad. But more on that. Just... I think we can all agree that books that end up just shy of perfect are the w o r s t to review because it's like, "Oh, I loved this book until X point, and let me proceed to relive my disappointment in excruciating detail."

This book is about Michael, an atheist, who ends up being sent to a Catholic private school. Why? Because his dad is a businessy businessman and this is the best school in town. Michael is obviously less than thrilled because he's been yanked out of school several times because of his dad's job, and the fact that religion has entered the mix is basically just another reason to be miserable, as far as he's concerned.

But at his school, Michael learns that his conception of Catholicism isn't exactly catch-all. Catholic students question their faith and its applications just as much as an outsider might do. And within the school is a secular mix of students calling themselves Heretics Anonymous where they gripe about some of the school's more annoying and unscrupulous tendencies, like "Sex Ed" that grossly misinforms or firing teachers for being LGBT+.

The club consists of Avi, who is Jewish and gay; Max, who is Korean and likes to wear a cape around (yolo?); Lucy, who is a Colombian feminist who wishes that Catholicism was not quite so exclusionary to women and that the pro-women passages didn't get regularly glossed over; and Eden, who I forgot about-- I think she's Polytheistic. Anyway, they decide that technically Michael is more of an apostate than a heretic, but include him anyway in their band of misfits. Trouble arises, though, when they take their club public and begin ribbing the school with well-intended but slightly malicious pranks, and other people start taking a vested interest in unmasking the club and its attendees.

So here's where the book got annoying for me. Michael finds out something frustrating and kind of has a mental break. He does something that compromises the club and its members-- and they basically just let him be the fall guy. Even though he was the inciting factor, they had created it long before he came along and it just felt really scummy to me that they not only let him be punished for what they created-- they basically made him grovel to get back in their good graces, after taking the blame.

After that, I kind of hated them all a little. 

For the most part, I think this book handles its subject wonderfully. My favorite faith-based book (of the Christian persuasion, at least) is still HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, which is basically like if Saved! took place at a bible camp, but I was still super impressed at what the author dared tackle in this book. At times, Michael did come across as patronizing though-- and while that is his personality, it kind of made it hard to buy the romance between him and Lucy. They were SO different. I just think that dating someone of a different faith opens up so many doors to questions with tough answers. How will you celebrate holidays? How will you raise your children? Is church attendance mandatory? Is conversion? I know they're just teens dating but it felt like these issues were kind of glossed over.

Overall, this was a fun read and I'm definitely willing to check out what else this author has written.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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