Book Review: Children of the Most High by Anna Scanlon

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Graber has lived in the safety of her close-knit conservative Amish community her entire life. She has been dating Zeke Stolzfus, the Bishop's son, since her first singing and anticipates the day when the two will marry. Rebecca's life changes overnight when Zeke, the boy she loves and trusts, forcibly takes her virginity. Taught to "turn the other cheek" like Jesus would have done, Rebecca's religion requires her to forgive Zeke and put the rape in the past. Family relationships and community ties are put to the test in the wake of Rebecca's trauma. Feeling abandoned by her religion's minimization of the assault, she embarks on a journey where she discovers the answers in the most unlikely of places. This powerful novel examines what forgiveness truly means.

Release Date: June 15, 2014
Age Group: 14+
Source: Review copy from author
Reviewed By: Kelli

Children of the Most High is an unforgettable book.  I absolutely devoured it: Rebecca's story drew me in from page one and I couldn't put this book down.  The premise of Children of the Most High is devastating---the book starts out with Rebecca's rape---yet so compelling.  I had to know if Rebecca would overcome her circumstances, and if her attacker/boyfriend, Zeke, would be brought to justice.

Despite the crux of the book being the aftermath of Rebecca's rape and its impact on her family, and the Amish community at large, Children of the Most High is a book about forgiveness.  Rebecca's innocence is taken, and her picturesque view of her future is shattered the night Zeke rapes her.  For years, Rebecca has planned out she and Zeke's future, and is content to live her life among her close-knit community of Plain People.  She never questions those in authority or envisions another type of life for herself.  Her only breach of her community's strict rules is her secret love of reading.  Rebecca hides her library books (she's not even allowed to get a library card!) and loves to escape into other worlds, as well as learn as much as she can (she had to stop school after 8th grade per her church's rules for girls).  So the fact that Rebecca starts a journey to discover herself, and how to learn to forgive Zeke, is huge, and so completely foreign to her family and the her Amish community.  

I loved Rebecca's spirit, and how she grows throughout the story.  It was inspiring to see Rebecca get stronger as the story progressed.  The way Rebecca valiantly tries to reconcile the Amish way of turning the other cheek and leaving justice to God, with her feelings of anger, hatred, and betrayal was the essence of her personal journey.  I was so invested in Rebecca's story, and longed for her to triumph over her situation.

As in Unravelled, Scanlon's previous book (which was also fantastic; read my review here), Children of the Most High is written with comfortable assurance.  I can tell that Scanlon researched the Amish and their way of life to the point where she most likely became an expert on them.  I greatly admire a well-researched book, especially fiction, because it shows the author's dedication to writing a great story.  

Children of the Most High has a slightly open ending.  I finished the book with one question, that was really more of a suspicion, but I would have liked to have it confirmed. There's something to be said, though, for authors who have the confidence to leave their endings slightly open.  It shows moxie, and leaves the reader thinking about the book long after it's over (at least for me it does).  In the end, I couldn't stand not knowing, so I emailed Anna Scanlon to ask my question.  She replied and gave me great news: there will be a sequel to this book.  Yay!  I can't wait to read more of Rebecca's story!  

I highly recommend this powerful, moving book.  I can't wait to read more from Anna Scanlon!  

1 comment:

  1. Sounds excellent.

    I don't remember, have you tried The Outcast by Jolina Petersheim? I think you'd like it.


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