The Chosen One - Carol Lynch Williams
Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way.
That is, without questioning them much---if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.
But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
Carol Lynch Williams' The Chosen One has been the recipient of a multitude of high praise, despite the fact that it has yet to be released. In fact, right on the cover of the ARC edition, it's referred to as "compelling", "powerful", "a masterpiece", "an important book"... With heralds like that, one begins the book with high expectations.
Despite that, The Chosen One does not disappoint. In fact, it even surpassed those high expectations, for the most part. (Just a random side observation - this is also a book written in present tense; how uncanny!) Williams has boiled down to the essence of a thirteen year old voice with the bare minimums in Kyra. The storytelling style is simultaneously captivating and credible. The flashback memories are incorporated well, the tale flows beautifully, and a sense of immediacy is created between the reader and Kyra. The one thing that irked me slightly was the random changes to poetry format. A few of them worked well, but some of the others just felt like overkill. Had the transition been a little more smooth, they might all have worked, but as it were, a few of them just felt fragmented and interrupted the otherwise amazing flow.
Kyra is characterized fantastically as a main protag. Pathos is generated masterly, and readers will be carried along on the intense ride of emotions, feeling their hearts go out to this thirteen year old girl with whom they may not have a lot in common with, but will find themselves unable to remain removed from her compelling tale. Emotions were conveyed beautifully. The supporting cast was also portrayed very well. It was easy to be swept along with the story. When Kyra was wronged by those around her, I felt angry at the perpetrators, at the Prophet, at her uncle. And such was the power of Kyra's narration - the emotions of the characters have the ability to overtake the reader before he or she is consciously aware of it.
A lot of the concepts in this novel offer insight into a world that's so close to our own, but that we don't really know a lot about. It's thought-provoking, and it'll probably draw in some controversy after its release, but especially with the amount of polygamy stories hitting the news recently, the conversations provoked will definitely be interesting.
The Mobile Library on Wheels - now that is one awesome thing. The many twists towards the end though - and this is a book which pulls you along in the story really well, without having you try to predict the answers beforehand because you're too engrossed in the present - those are very shocking and powerful. I, for one, was pretty much blown away by the progression of the climax.
The Chosen One is definitely going to be a book widely discussed after its release. From the awesome hook of an opening line, " 'If I was going to kill the prophet,' I say, not even keeping my voice low, 'I'd do it in Africa.' (Williams 1, ARC Edition)" to the chilling climax, to the hopeful end, The Chosen One is an unforgettable, heartbreaking tale.
*The Chosen One will be released by St. Martin's Griffin on May 12th, 2009.