Faking Faith by Josie Bloss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
After a series of bad decisions, culminating in the widespread dissemination of some foolishly shared ("you'll never show these to anyone,right?") topless photos, MC Dylan finds herself home alone, suspended, grounded by her workaholic parents, shunned by her friends and generally very, very lonely and unhappy. What's a girl to do? Why, spend hours on the internet, of course, where she becomes intrigued by and sucked into the world of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls (from families that kind of remind me of the Duggers). She really connects with with one of them, a girl from southern Illinois named Abigail (I think that name means "Handmaid," appropriate for her, as it develops). Dylan (whose name comes from a guy who was the ultimate symbol of the hedonistic 60's) invents her own such persona, "Faith" (I like the ambiguity of the title, btw, referring to both her name and her beliefs). As Faith, Dylan creates her own blog, and insinuates herself into the little online community and ultimately ends up visiting Abigail and her family (she's a clever one, if a bit sneaky). Faith's visit stirs up a lot of things at the farm, including Abi's brother Asher, who's already somewhat on probation for having been seen kissing a non-Christian girl. Is Faith's presence and impact a good thing for any of them?
One of the things I really liked about this book was the starkly contrasting nature of Dylan/Faith's two worlds. Her parents are mystified by her interest in and questions about things like baking, and why they never go to church. And of course Abi's family views the world Dylan comes from (if they think of it at all), as equally incomprehensible, and essentially a snare for the unwary, to be avoided above all. The relationshion between Abigail, the first person Dylan's connected with in so long who hasn't judged and rejected her, is sweet and convincing, and all the more dramatic for being founded on a whole lot of lying. Maybe because it is so utterly foreign to her experience, Dylan doesn't judge Abigail's world harshly, but instead sees it as something to be experienced, comparing it to being on an alien planet at one point. One of the things I liked best was how Dylan was able to see the appealing things about both worlds, and I appreciated that the author didn't engage in a lot of stereotyping or mockery of "those benighted kooks," but was able to see what they had that the more materialistic and driven lawyer family lacked (and vice versa, of course).
This is one of those "OMG, girlfriend don't do that books," a lot of the time, and it's fun (and stressful) to see how such bad judgment and poor impulse control land Dylan in so much, and so many different kinds of, hot water. But Dylan does grow, heal and learn as the summer goes on, and the Faith experience ends up being one that brings her a new appreciation of her own world and family, while also, perhaps, having a similar effect on Abigail and Asher. When Dylan applies what Faith learned to the situation she left behind, she's able to reconcile her experience of both worlds in a healing and hopeful way that make the conclusion emotional and satisfying. And isn't that what a good YA book is supposed to do?
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