I Am Not Esther

If I were running a teen book discussion group, one of my picks would be I am not Esther (2002--but new to our library) by Fleur Beale.

Kirby is left by her mother with relatives who belong to a fundamentalist Christian cult, where living by the Rules is everything. To them she is Esther; her old life no longer exists. Kirby's horror at being thrust into this community, and her revulsion at the rules that govern life within it, are balanced by her love for individuals within her new family. There are many things that could be discussed: the author presents the Community of Faith from Kirby's point of view-she finds it repellent. Is this fair? Would you rebel more or less than Kirby? Should Kirby have tried more actively to enlighten others about the world outside The Rules? In a society that values tolerance, how much should we tolerate such a community? Is it believable that she feels in danger of becoming Esther?

In many ways, this book reminded me of a time slip story--stranger in a strange time, adapting to/fighting differences. And this genre is one of the best to inspire daydreams in the reader, of the "what would I do in these circumstances" variety. So all in all, a thought-provoking and enjoyable (albeit in a disturbing way) read.

I had one small reservation. Perhaps because the book is so focused on the situation that Kirby/Esther finds herself in, Kirby never quite became a person to me; she is Modern Girl vs the Cult. However, I will definitely be on the lookout for Fleur Beale's latest release- A Respectable Girl, when it finally gets released over here.

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