A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that dark, confused fantasy The Blessed, by Tonya Hurley (author of the bestselling, much more lighthearted ghostgirl series), has something to upset practically everybody. Religious readers will be aghast at the violent, smarmily sexy behavior of so-called saints (contemporary teens who take on the identities of some ancient Christian martyrs), while nonbelievers will be appalled by the unfocused religious mumbo-jumbo. There's profane language galore ("f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more), as well as murderous violence described in morbid detail, not to mention a suicide attempt, tombs, bones, and implements of torture. There's also repeated dwelling on the gory details of the deaths of the historical Roman saints Agnes, Cecilia, Lucy, and Sebastian, complete with beheading, eye-gouging, rape attempts, and more.
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What's the story?
Troubled teens Agnes, who's just attempted suicide over a faithless boyfriend; CeCe, a punk musician who nearly drowns in a puddle when intoxicated; and Lucy, a superficial scenester/blogosphere celebrity who overdoses, end up in the same emergency room in Brooklyn one night. All receive beautiful, strange bracelets from Sebastian, a mysterious, handsome young man who's also a patient. Drawn both spiritually and sexually to Sebastian by the bracelets, they converge on the derelict Church of the Precious Blood as a huge storm hits Brooklyn. Over the next three days, Sebastian reveals that he's actually the martyred St. Sebastian and that the three girls have a divine calling to be the latter-day counterparts to gruesomely martyred Roman saints Agnes, Cecilia and Lucy in pursuit of a mission yet to be revealed. Trying to get Sebastian out of the picture is a villainous psychiatrist who's been trying to "cure" him for years and is now trying to frame him for murder. Confusion, turbulence, and bloodshed ensue, much of it with quasi-religious overtones.
Is it any good?
THE BLESSED could have been a great book, but it misses the mark. Three very different girls are recruited by a mysterious guy for grand adventure and cosmic battle; teens are chosen by God in the 21st century, with conflicts and nuances (Joan of Arcadia did this very well); a villainous zealot of the Science Religion insists that only the quantifiable is real, pitted against saints on a mission from God. It could have been epic and thought-provoking. Instead -- in addition to profane language, gratuitous violence, and constant sexual undercurrents -- readers get a muddled plot that fails to clearly establish who the characters are and what drives them, let alone the nature of the mission for which they've been recruited.
And while Abbey Watkins' illustrations are beautifully creepy, the editing is sloppy, resulting in an incoherent narrative with notable typos. Things may get clearer in the remaining volumes of the trilogy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which characters they found appealing, and what are their good and not-so-good qualities. Do you find them and their situations believable and compelling?
What do you think about the way the conflict between religion and reason is presented here?
How is social media used in this story? Do you see any examples of how it can do a lot of good? A lot of harm?
- Author: Tonya Hurley
- Illustrator: Abbey Watkins
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster
- Publication date: September 25, 2012
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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