Thanks to a humiliating and painfully public sexting incident, Dylan has become the social pariah at her suburban Chicago high school. She's ignored by everyone--when she's not being taunted--and estranged from her two best friends. So when Dylan discovers the blogs of homeschooled fundamentalist Christian girls, she's immediately drawn into their fascinating world of hope chests, chaperoned courtships, and wifely submission.
Blogging as Faith, her devout and wholesome alter ego, Dylan befriends Abigail, the online group's queen bee. After staying with Abigail and her family for a few days, Dylan begins to grow closer to Abigail (and her intriguingly complicated older brother). Soon, Dylan is forced to choose: keep living a lie . . . or come clean and face the consequences. (goodreads.com)
ALBATROSS set the bar pretty high when it came to Josie Bloss books so when I had the opportunity to review FAKING FAITH I jumped at it. While it definitely didn't disappoint it didn't have the same impact for me as ALBATROSS did. The latter had excellent timing (I'd just read TWILIGHT and it's anti really spoke to me) plus I connected with it on a deeply personal level. FAKING FAITH was good; it was eye-opening but it took a pretty big suspension of disbelief to really get into the plot. A teen faking her way into a fundamentalist Christian home? I'm pretty sure they would have been able to sniff her out almost immediately.
Dylan screwed up royally, against the advice of her friends and her little inner Jiminy Cricket screaming at her that her uber-hot douche boyfriend was all wrong. She ends up being a social pariah in a way I thought was a bit forced: in a drunken stupor she blows off her friends for this boy. Instead of recognizing the act as just that, a drunken idiocy, her friends take it to heart and things escalate from there. Blowing off happens, shunning occurs and then Dylan's relationship blows up in her face and she's all alone.
For some insane reason she retreats to the world of fundamentalist Christian girl bloggers and their seemingly far simpler way of living. I can half understand something like that. They live such an isolated life, free of cell phones and high school and all the other machinations of the modern age. What Dylan doesn't really comprehend until she takes on the persona of Faith and visits her online friend's farm is that that kind of living comes at a price and she effectively shatters pieces of a family with her ignorance of their world and her insistence of hers.
It's very Lifetime movie-esque and your standard friend make-ups happen at the end. Dylan realizes her life isn't terrible and sometimes simpler isn't better. But what kind of bothered me, and I'm going to play devil's advocate here, is how the fundamentalist life is portrayed as ultimately wrong. Yes, Abigail's father was a controlling dick that reveled in being the master of his domain. Beau, Abigail's intended, is a creeper that needs to have his junk cut off and the women are 100% subservient to the men, subject to doing only womanly duties and being married to someone her father chooses only. Yeah, those things suck. But this is a belief system. In this world we live in now we view it as wrong. Women are strong, independent beings that can make our own choices in life. I mean the Crusades were fought because one set of people felt another set believed the wrong thing. Bam! War. What happens if this kind of structure is what's holding these people together? What if releasing them into the greater world is what unravels them? Is their belief system still wrong? Yes, Abigail was clearly not looking forward to her life with Beau but she stood by her convictions. This was what was right FOR HER. Dylan didn't understand that. Hell, I don't understand it. But it's HER choice. She is actively making it even with Dylan sitting there offering her help on a silver platter.
The book painted really good juxtapositions between Dylan's and Abigail's family. Yes, the fundamentalist Christians are extremes (arranged marriage? really? NOW?) but they are a cohesive family unit. The children were far better behaved than many "normal" children, they ate meals together, the survived together. They functioned as a unit. Dylan's family had every freedom of the modern world but they barely knew each other. Family time? Right. Sure they sat at the same table to eat cereal but there were always laptops and smartphones involved. Dylan even points these polarities out and it's something she came to really love about Abigail's family despite their faults. As a result Bloss really begs the question: which is the correct life? Or is it something in between?
FAKING FAITH is a novel that will definitely make you think. It paints the extremes as very extreme but neither are without their pros or cons. You see the happiness of both and you see the pitfalls of both. There is a slant, of course, but I'd think it'd be hard to write something like this without swaying at least a little. It's a good contemporary with it's crux centering around the pervasive notion of the internet and how is can ruin people. How running and hiding from your problems only manifests all new ones. How the only way to fix things is to confront them head on.
Like I said, very Lifetime but still a good story if you can tuck back the notion that Dylan can lie her way into someone's home like that to begin with. Another extreme but I don't think it was handled too absurdly. Her obsession with the online culture was portrayed far better, I think, but the plot needed Dylan to immerse herself in it wholly. And she did. At least it worked out in the end.
Ban Factor: High - This book basically destroys the ideal life of the religious right, read: banners. No likey.
I'm adding FAKING FAITH to my Summer Blast Giveaway so if you want a chance to win it be sure to enter!
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