August 10, 2013

Title: Escape from Eden

Author: Elisa Nader ♥ @elisanader

Published: August 18, 2013

Publisher: Merit Press

Pages: 272

Source: Net Galley

Summary from Goodreads: Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.

But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?

Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28

  • Christina thought this title was only okay. Different. Good-different? However, some of the content made her uncomfortable.

**Special Note:** An e-ARC of this title was provided by the publishers via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. However, that did not influence this review an any way. All thoughts, quotes, and opinions will be of this galley and not from the published version.

The Lowdown: Welcome to Edenton, a “Utopian” community set in the South American jungle, where the faithful are kept in and the outside world is never in close proximity… or so they’re told. This supposed “Garden of Eden” is lead by the strict Reverend who uses the Bible and The Lord’s teachings as a governing tool to make his followers bend to his demands. Most of the Flock willingly accepts these principles, allowing the preacher to dictate their life choices–not allowing them to read books or have computers and even deciding who they marry– because it’s the Lord’s will and the Reverend’s divine right. No one questions anyone or anything inside the gates, and since a majority of these people know little of the world outside the compound, they don’t know they should. All except for Mia.

Mia, now sixteen, came to Edenton with her mother and brother when she was only ten years old, but she can’t escape the memories of what the world was like before she arrived there and all the things her father had told her before he left.

“Things Papa used to say: Doubt everything, find your own light… Knowledge is freedom… Faith is not wanting to know what’s true.”

Mia knows she hates Edenton. Hates that she doesn’t know the world. Dislikes how the place is ruled so strictly and that she’s always told where to work, how to act, what to say. She also knows that she wants out by any means necessary, even if that means leaving her mother behind. Then when a new (attractive) guy named Gabriel arrives with his family and immediately confirms everything Mia’s ever suspected was wrong with her “perfect society,” she knows she may have just found a way to escape. Only it’s never really that easy, is it?  The deceitful secrets and evil corruption runs deeper than she ever could have imagined.

My Thoughts: While I’ve always been disturbingly curious mildly fascinated with cults, I’ve yet to ever read a book that focuses on one- how it was formed and the society that evolved from it in a purely fictitious way. So, when I saw this one on Net Galley, I thought it’d be the perfect way to introduce the subject to me. Well, let me just tell you, I was wrong about thinking I’d be able to handle some of the content just because it was young adult, and this will probably be my last foray into this particular line of fiction.

On a positive note, I want to say that the author’s storytelling and character development really have nothing to do with my rating. I thought Mia and Gabriel were both solid characters that experienced personal growth throughout the novel, though their relationship never really did anything for me. Even the side characters, those that were devout followers and the antagonists alike, were all believable in their roles and the uniqueness that they brought to the book. Even the plot arc and pacing were perfectly fine, and the novel as a whole was very thought-provoking. I also appreciated that even though the community revolved around religious teachings, it never felt like a “preachy” book.

So why such an average rating if all that was fine and dandy? Well, the answer is in the antagonist’s wrongdoings and how terrible it made me feel.

While I was pulled into the story immediately and sensed the lurking evil that surrounded Edenton, I don’t think I was ever really fully prepared for how deep the corruption went and how uncomfortable it would make me feel reading about it. There were large chunks of the story where the evil work (SPOILER: child prostitution was a big one:END SPOILER) was being confronted, and I just gawked at the book (while in a fetal, rocking position) or skimmed because of how icky, for the lack of a better word, it made me feel. Even though some  it was downplayed a good bit to fit the young adult genre, I still felt like it may have been a little too graphic for younger readers. Or apparently semi-young adults like myself.

♥ A very special thanks to Merit Press and Net Galley for allowing me to preview an advanced copy of this title.

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