The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams comes in as my first 10/10 read for the year. I can't say it enough...get this book and read it. It's absorbing, amazing, and affirming; it could easily be gulped down in one sitting.
Almost fourteen year old Kyra has lived her entire life as a Chosen One--a member of a religious polygamist group which has separated itself from the world with a fence and a lifestyle few understand. Kyra's family life includes a loving father, three mothers, and approximately eighteen brothers and sisters, and she's been raised to accept her own future as one of her husband's subservient wives. Though Kyra has a bit of a rebellious nature in that she slips out regularly to the mobile library to read forbidden books, she knows she will continue to do as she's told by the community's Prophet...until he declares that he has had a vision that will make Kyra the seventh wife of her much older uncle.
Told from Kyra's point of view, this gripping young adult novel unfolds a story of freedom, young love, fear, and desperation in a sparse 200 pages. Kyra is adamant that she isn't going to marry her uncle, and though her family agrees with her, they are powerless to stop the marriage once the Prophet has spoken. I watched breathlessly as I saw Kyra's world spinning out of control with no adult able to stand up for her lest they risk losing everything they know and love. The balanced way Ms. Williams portrays the polygamist society was well done; Kyra's mothers honestly seem to love all the children and their shared husband, and Kyra feels nothing but warmth and care from not only the mothers but also her father. It is when the bigger picture of the Chosen Ones society is revealed--killing of "defective" infants, forced marriage, brutal physical punishments, and the not so subtle idea that young girls are being forced to wed the much older leaders--that my skin began to crawl and I felt almost as trapped as Kyra. The idea that the only way out might be the sacrifice of never seeing your beloved family again rips into your soul and makes you understand why some young women choose to remain subservient.
This novel might have been torn from recent headlines and it brings a very real, very personal face to the tragedy of some young females at the hands of religious zealots. Ms. Williams builds to a climax that is dangerous and gut-wrenching in so many ways that I literally could not put this novel down. Once I closed the last page, I was so worked up I couldn't stop thinking about Kyra and her sisters, both fictional and real. This book is tremendous, and deserves to be read and shared. I am going to be thinking about this one for a very, very long time. Get this book. Now. You won't be sorry. Highly, highly recommended.