Lifelong reader with the food-smudged and bath-drowned books to prove it. I read YA and SF/F with forays into history, politics, classic lit, and *good* historical fiction. My e-reader is my constant companion.
For this reader, Anomaly was true to its name, in that its sheer level of terrible landed it on my rarely-used "too-awful-to-finish" shelf.
A YA dystopian? Sure, I'll give it a whirl. A YA dystopian that beats me over the head with the author's particular brand of religion and is more than a little short on character development, believable worldbuilding, and plot? Pardon me while I Hail Mary the book like there's five seconds left in the Super Bowl and I'm Tom Brady trying to finish off a crazy comeback.
I ran across this book in July while perusing my library's new YA ebook purchases. There were already quite a few people on the hold list, which piqued my interest, and the blurb looked okay at first glance, so I signed up for it. I waited nearly three months for my turn to arrive and finally today I received a message saying the book was available. Excited, I downloaded Anomaly, plopped down in my favorite chair, and settled in with my Kindle to read it.
That's when I discovered that this book treats people like they're heathen tent pegs that can be forced into the desired position on religion if hit hard and often enough with a Christian hammer.
I'm not knee-jerk hating on this book simply because it involves religion. In the past, I've enjoyed a variety of stories that included or were based on religious themes and elements, with Cynthia Hand's Unearthly series being a prime example. Anomaly contains a ton of evangelical Christian messages and biblical quotes; however, things like characters that are sufficiently developed for the reader to give a rat's ass about them and a coherent plot are notably absent. To me, the MC, Thalli (yes, the kids in this book are named after elements from the periodic table, because Evil Scientists), was about as interesting and appealing as a bowl of cold oatmeal. She's supposed to be a huge danger to the Pod where she lives BECAUSE SHE HAS EMOTIONS AND NO ONE ELSE DOES, OH NOES! But she doesn't do much of anything, so it was hard for me to take that portrayal at all seriously. Now, I will freely admit that I couldn't make myself finish this book (a rare event for me), so it's possible Thalli becomes a dynamic and fascinating character by the end. It could have happened. For all I know, it did happen. I'm just saying I doubt it.
The contemptuous portrayal of science and scientists is another extremely disturbing aspect of Anomaly. Yeah, scientists, those evil jerks. What have they ever done for the world? It gets even worse when Thalli encounters a plot device man named John who tells her about the almighty Designer. And of course, we're talking about a very evangelical-friendly Christian version of said Designer. From that point on, we're on our way into Preachytown by way of the Science Is Bad line, and it's one hell of a fast ride.
I shouldn't have assumed the book would be an entertaining read for me on the basis of a generic blurb and a long waiting list at my local library. That was stupid on my part, especially considering that I live in an area that's home to a large evangelical college; I know my tastes often don't coincide with the local general consensus. Now, there are plenty of ways to include religious ideas and elements in a story so that readers of any (or no) faith enjoy it, so Anomaly's strong appeal to people who are very religious didn't automatically make it a miss for me. But the way the author shifted quickly from storytelling into preaching and stayed there (with an occasional jump into proselytizing for variety) definitely moved it into swing-and-a-miss territory for me.
Anomaly's true deal-breaker for me, though, was the overwhelming impression it gave me of being a vehicle for evangelical Christian messages first and an actual story a sad and distant second. If you want to preach, that's fine, but be up front about it. Don't encapsulate your message inside a hollow shell of a YA dystopian in a ham-fisted attempt to attract more readers. Just be honest about your true purpose. That way you'll get readers who'll appreciate your work and avoid irritating or infuriating those who won't.