Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Book of Jude, by Kimberley Heuston

It is the late 1980s and Jude is a mildly over-imaginative teen living in New York in a struggling Mormon family. But she does not do well with change and when her Mom gets a chance to study for a year in Prague, Jude can't imagine a worse situation than losing her Mother for a year, until she learns that the plan is really to have the whole family move to Prague. Not only does this sound worse, it actually is worse as Jude's flights of fancy quickly deteriorate into psychosis and madness as she becomes unable to differentiate between reality and nightmares as the country around her shifts between paranoia and chaos.

Set against the historical events of the Velvet Revolution (for some bizarre reason, the blurb writer cofuses this with the Prague Spring [of 1968]!), Heuston's latest historical novel is an interesting dpearture from the usual mold. Part historical, part I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, this complex story traces stories of change, historical upheaval, religious faith, and mental illness. Staying true to the jumbled mental state of the narrator, the story itself jumps and bounds around from topic to topic. That can make for very frustrated reading as interesting subplots get lost in the haze and the main storyline never really wraps up. However, it feels more realistic this way. My one complaint is that the story could have been much longer and benefitted from fleshing out of the story. That said, Heuston is one of the stronger and more original voices in YA historical fiction today and worth reading.

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