This was by far my favourite read of 2006 and one that made my everyone must read list, which I don't often add books to.
First, this was one of the most unique (to me at least) and brilliant ways to put together a book. We are guided through the tale via journal and blog entries, news articles, emails between people, radio interviews, speeches and so on. At first glance. I admit I held a slight expectation that this book would be a little slow to read because of that fact. Boy was I ever wrong. I practically inhaled this book, couldn't put it down and fell in love with it instantly.
I also had the misconception that this would be a non-fiction then learned otherwise after reading the cover. When you read it though, it is positively scary how close it feels to something that really could be a part of our future and I don't just mean the USA (I am in Canada). This could happen anywhere in the world. I loved the way the author takes current events and brings them forward to a conclusion that is all at once chilling and enlightening.
Imagine a world in which one religion becomes the accepted way and all others, along with all alternative ways of life (sexual and otherwise) become outlawed. This book guides you through such a world and brings you the insiders view from many aspects. The characters are complex and stunningly written and the plot mainly revolves around an eleven year old girl named Mary Christopher. Mary is the daughter of the latest President, a President who along with Mary's mother (crusader for family values) and "uncle" Gene (evangelical leader) are determined to lead America to a better way of life. Things aren't so cut and dried for Mary though after she meets an aetheist online who constantly gives her much to think about and other vivid characters who help her to realise that it is possible to unlearn everything you always thought was right and change your way of thinking.
This book has so many ways of being defined, like coming of age story, dystopia and many more but to me, in all honesty, it's beyond definition. (other than great, of course).
Everyone should read this book at least once. Whatever your preferences are in life (and not just religiously), this book will give you one hell of a wake up call when it comes to freedom and intolerance. Speaking personally as someone who is into alternative lifestyles and religions this book brings a lot to light and shockingly, to me, even taught me a lot more about acceptance of others ways of life and choices, not just tolerance.
Read a chapter of this amazing book here
Author's website: http://vincentmwales.com/ (Site also shows all the great awards this book won)