Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Once was Lost-- Sara Zarr

Sometimes it seems like YA fiction with a religious theme fit into three basic categories: christian fiction, stories about teens in religious situations typical Americans find oppressive, or books about rebel, atheist, pagan teens. This is a generalization, and know there are notable exceptions, but Once Was Lost took me pleasantly by surprise... even though I do enjoy Sara Zarr's writing.

Once Was Lost is Sam's story. She is a PK (preacher's kid) who has spent the last year taking care of her alcoholic mother and hiding her mom's problems from the sharp eye of her father's congregation. Sam's not sure about a lot of things anymore, but she mostly isn't sure if the God her father preaches about is the God for her... if he even exists, and if he does, why are all these bad things happening? When Jody, the young choir soloist, suddenly goes missing, the whole town is in an uproar. All signs point to crime, and Sam takes Jody's disappearance extremely hard. All at once, everything Sam thought she knew to be true seems wrong and she has lost her place in the world. But sometimes getting lost is the only way to really find oneself.

I appreciated the way Zarr told this story. She could have really been down on organized religion, or made Sam's struggles seem trite or too black-and-white. Zarr handled the subject with a dignity and accuracy, and I think a lot of teens who are learning to think about religion for themselves for the first time will really identify with Sam. There is also an element of suspense to this story that keeps the reader enticed. Once Was Lost will be published in October 2009.

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