Put an atheist in a strict Catholic school? Expect comedy, chaos, and an Inquisition. The Breakfast Club meets Saved! in debut author Katie Henry’s hilarious novel about a band of misfits who set out to challenge their school, one nun at a time. Perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli and Robyn Schneider. When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest. Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
Underrepresented "Religious" Group!
Michael is angry enough at his parents that they have moved him and his sister yet again for his father's job as he goes into his junior year, but to enroll him in a Catholic school, no matter how good, makes him even angrier. He's an agnostic, and prepared to have a miserable time. Luckily, on the very first day he hears Lucy arguing with the teacher about religious points and thinks he has a soul mate. He does, in a way-- Lucy identifies herself as a heretic, in that her beliefs aren't quite sanctioned by the church, but she is very much a believer. She has a small group of other students who don't necessarily toe the line in plain black shoes, and they all decide that it's time to make their opinions known. They manage to do some underhanded but well thought out pranks, like changing the sex ed/abstinence video, but things get serious when the Latin teacher loses her job when her same-sex marriage comes to the attention of the school. Michael and Lucy start to date, and Michael's issues with his family situation also reach a tipping point.
Ms. Henry is clearly a far, far better human being than I am! I have been an atheist since confirmation class, and of all the people who have been flat-out mean to me in my life, religious people have been the absolute meanest. Ms. Henry gets ENORMOUS bonus points for not only really understanding and describing Michael's beliefs, but for describing and being kind about ALL of the different beliefs she portrays. It's an incredibly difficult thing to do, and she pulls it off with a great deal of good humor as well!
Drinking and allusions to sexual behavior, while mild, make this more of a YA title more appropriate for high school, but I would love something similar for middle school students.
What worked: This is a humorous at times contemporary novel of an Atheist teen who ends up in a Catholic school and a group of 'misfits' who try to take on the school's unfair practices.
Michael is an atheist who finds himself in a religious school setting. I really loved how the author shows us a teen who tries to find his place in a Catholic school even though he doesn't believe in God. Michael ends up being attracted to Lucy, who though devout in her faith, challenges a teacher in class. Later Lucy introduces him to others, who aren't the stereotypical private Catholic school teens.
The whole novel has a Breakfast Club vibe going for it. This group of so-called misfits meets in the basement of the school and calls themselves Heretics Anonymous. Some of their antics are pretty funny, like when they switch out the sex education tape and insert 'true' facts.
Then when they decide to take more action to show the hypocrisy in the school administration after a teacher is fired, things get out of control.
Another huge plus has to be how the Catholic school teachers aren't painted in just extreme strokes, but rather are given their own vulnerabilities with what goes on in the school.
Engaging coming of age story where five teens set out to openly question the administration of their school. There's humor, friendship, romance, but mostly faith. Not just faith in God, but finding the peace and love within and with others. Totally recommend!