I’m pretty sure I was the weirdest preteen ever. I spent at least two months struggling with the secret belief that I had consumption (tuberculosis) thanks to L.M. Montgomery, Ruby Gillis, and a particularly lingering cough. To my mom’s credit, when I finally told her, she didn’t laugh and she took me to the health department for the test that would lay my fears to rest. But a bigger anxiety that kept me up at night was one I never confessed to her. I really feared that I would end up immaculately conceiving, and when it happened, no one would believe me. Whole sleepless nights were spent worrying about this. I chalk this ridiculous idea up to some impressive religious fervor that I maintained throughout my early teens mixed with the Christian fiction of the early 1990’s and an inflated belief in my own importance in the universe. Also, I probably needed some anxiety meds. All this is to say that, when I saw the premise for this book, I couldn’t resist.
Mina is seventeen. A virgin. And pregnant.
Mina is top of her class, girlfriend to the most ambitious guy in school, able to reason and study her way through anything. But when she suddenly finds herself pregnant—despite having never had sex—her orderly world collapses. Almost nobody believes Mina’s claims of virginity. Her father assumes that her boyfriend is responsible; her boyfriend believes she must have cheated on him. As news of Mina’s story spreads, there are those who brand her a liar. There are those who brand her a heretic. And there are those who believe that miracles are possible—and that Mina’s unborn child could be the greatest miracle of all.
I kind of knew I wasn’t really going to enjoy this book because it was bound to be full of intense conflict. It is inevitable that drama will run high and ugly when someone announces that they have experienced a miracle like immaculate conception. The premise was just hard to resist despite my reservations. In the end, I was right. Lines were quickly drawn between believers and non-believers and it got dirty and mean just as I expected. What I didn’t expect was the way the book ended. It is impossible to say more than this without spoilers, but it is fair to say I wasn’t perfectly satisfied with the resolution, and I think others will feel the same. I think the author is prepared for this, based on the things she said in her acknowledgements, so I expect she is girding herself for the division this story will create in readers. I’m not sure if you are going to find the beauty and affirmation this book has to offer or if you are going to be distracted by the answers, but I think it is certainly going to be a book that provokes thought and discussion.
So, should you read it? There are a few things to consider. The point of view is first person and it is the narrative voice of a teenager; readers should expect a sensitivity to judgement and isolation that is in line with the age of this protagonist. As an adult, I found the normal concerns of teen life being weighed evenly with the bigger implications of spirituality a bit irritating, but I have to acknowledge that it probably reads true for the protagonist. While I thought this was detrimental to the pace, I also think that the target audience will accept it more easily and find themselves asking where they would stand in this situation.
It was interesting that a premise poised to be so deeply religious resulted in a book that wasn’t focused on religion. This really is a story about faith in the ones we love more than Faith.
While I didn’t enjoy this book as an escape, it certainly was a book that lingered in the back of my mind all day. I think my high school readers would be interested and engaged and language and situations are appropriate for them.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.