Is the Grass Always Greener?
Pete Hautman’s newest young adult novel, EDEN WEST, places the reader within the borders of Nodd, a place where many have gathered to wait for the End Times. What Hautman accomplishes in this tale about seventeen year old Jacob both dispels and asserts much of what we think we know about cults. The idea of the grass always being greener on the other side helps to guide the reader through this complicated story.
Brother Jacob walks the fence that separates Nodd from the rest of the world. Inside it is safe. Or so Jacob believes. There are many things to tempt him within and beyond the borders. And like Jacob, there are many things to tempt readers to devour this book in one sitting. With a compelling cast of realistic characters, tension, and an overall search for something better, this novel has everything needed for a successful coming of age story.
There is something to be said of a story that can open the doors to places and people that seem so far away from reality. The world of Nodd feels archaic and much too proper, but the faith of the Grace stands against everything else. This idea of faith, not so much religion, immediately creates a connection between Jacob’s character and the reader.
Jacob’s faith and morality are tested as his once safe sanctuary begins to unravel bit by bit. While he isn’t deciding which college to choose, there is a sense of choice that weighs heavy on the main character of this novel. The consequences of choice will ring true for any young adult and thus, makes this a universal read sure to connect with everyone.
When an author brings a reader into a different world, so often the negative stereotypes can be the first things depicted. But much like Ellen Hopkins has done in exploring the Mormon religion in her two novels BURNED and SMOKE, Pete Hautman takes the reader into the world of a cult and shows that behind the guise of religion there are just people like us. In this case, they are simply people who want to believe in something better. This novel can teach all of us about acceptance and the power of belief in things large and small.
Within EDEN WEST, Hautman constructs a new type of Eden, and with it, all of the temptations that brought down that last paradise. To Jacob, his world is a paradise. It isn’t until he meets people from the outside, a “Wordly” girl named Lynna and a boy named Tobias, that he sees what could be. And in this we get tension and struggle and a fight to survive and be cleansed of all sins.
The compound of Nodd exists on the principles of respect and absolute belief. While Lynna brings up all of the things the reader may feel about cults, wonderment and hope is what becomes most clear in the land of the Grace. Hautman takes something shrouded in mystery and lets the reader walk between faith and fear to see the place where they meet. EDEN WEST is that meeting point.
With a strong narrative written with conviction, compassion, and confusion, this book is a beautiful example of a contemporary coming of age story. Inside the walls of Nodd feels like a fantastical place from the past. But even the past isn’t that simple. When Jacob faces the outside with its people and creatures, the simplicities of his world start to transform. A wolf invades Nodd and complicates Jacob’s world, and it is through such trials, that he discovers who he truly is.
EDEN WEST is a story that is stark and surreal and layered with the many questions we must answer as humans. The division between the world of Nodd and the outside world creates a compelling story sure to be an excellent choice for anyone looking for an out of the box coming of age story. This is a fantastic read I won’t be able to forget! Pick up your copy today!