Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: ‘Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature’ by Robin Brande

** Note to my super cool readers:  I’ve decided that my book summaries suck.  Don’t worry, I can admit it.  I get too impatient to write really good summaries, so I’m sure authors would rather I just use the publisher approved book blurbs instead.  For that reason, I will be using the Amazon summaries whenever possible. **

“All because you did the right thing.

Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.

And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.

From the Hardcover edition.

Okay, so this summary sort of sucks, too, but basically, Mena is from a super strict, evangelical Christian family and some controversy at church has her questioning her beliefs.  Her new biology teacher is really cool and has an almost cult-like following of science geeks.  When the evolution unit begins, the members from her former church group decide to boycott the lesson, putting Mena in the middle, unsure what she believes.

I have a low tolerance for extremism and narrow-mindedness, whether it is done by Christian fanatics or by anti-Christian scientists.  This book makes a strong point that science tells us how the world works, not why is works that way.  The theory of evolution is science formed by observable facts.  Religion is philosophy formed by faith.  These are large concepts for a high school freshman to have to draw conclusions on.  Mena handles her precarious situation with maturity and thoughtfulness.  Readers on both sides of the debate will be able to appreciate the way the author takes care to present multiple sides to the issue. 

On the other hand, there is a plot which occurs prior to the story’s action that I would have loved to see fleshed out more.  This involves this same church group harassing a suspected homosexual teenager until the boy attempts suicide.  Mena felt guilty by what her friends did to the boy and she writes him a letter of apology.  As a result, the boy’s parents decide to sue the parents and the kids involved in the harassment.  To me, this storyline was fascinating (partly because I am an insurance nerd) and I would have loved for this to have had a more central role in the book.

There is a romantic subplot between Mena and her science partner, Casey.  Casey has an incredible personality and is really smart.  I appreciate that the author created a love story for the “nerds” or “outcasts,” rather than between the popular kids.  We need more books which emphasize the personality and intelligence over good looks.  Their love story was sweet and realistic.  A definite plus to the book. 

Overall, I give Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature

Plot – 4 bookmarks
Character development – 5 bookmarks (We see Mena really turn from a child into a woman)
Love story – 4 ½ bookmarks
Handling of controversial topics – 4 ½ bookmarks
Dream cast (otherwise known as who I pictured while reading) – Okay, I just saw the movie Easy A, so I couldn’t help drawing my cast partially from the movie.  Emma Stone (Mena), Amanda Bynes (Theresa), Aaron Johnson (Casey)

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