Featured Review: Agnes at the End of the World (Kelly McWilliams)
About This Book:
The Handmaid's Tale meets Wilder Girls in this unique, voice-driven novel from Kelly McWilliams.
Agnes loves her home of Red Creek--its quiet, sunny mornings, its dusty roads, and its God. There, she cares tirelessly for her younger siblings and follows the town's strict laws. What she doesn't know is that Red Creek is a cult, controlled by a madman who calls himself a prophet.
Then Agnes meets Danny, an Outsider boy, and begins to question what is and isn't a sin. Her younger brother, Ezekiel, will die without the insulin she barters for once a month, even though medicine is considered outlawed. Is she a sinner for saving him? Is her sister, Beth, a sinner for dreaming of the world beyond Red Creek?
As the Prophet grows more dangerous, Agnes realizes she must escape with Ezekiel and leave everyone else, including Beth, behind. But it isn't safe Outside, either: A viral pandemic is burning through the population at a terrifying rate. As Agnes ventures forth, a mysterious connection grows between her and the Virus. But in a world where faith, miracles, and cruelty have long been indistinguishable, will Agnes be able to choose between saving her family and saving the world?
*Review Contributed By Olivia Farr Staff Reviewer*
AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a poignant YA dystopian that really speaks to humanity and the present. Agnes has grown up in Red Creek, a cult that is ruled over by the Prophet and resembles those we have heard of. Women are suppressed and are wed when they are as young as 14 to men with many wives. Illnesses are only to be treated with prayer, and death is God's punishment for fault. Agnes had a revelation when she was young and the Earth spoke to her as a voice and music she knew as God. However, when she brought this up, she learned quickly to suppress it, her Sunday School teacher beating her hands with a Bible until her finger broke- only the Prophet can talk to God.
Now, Agnes is in rebellion and aware of the dangers it carries. She meets with someone from the outside to get the medicine that can save her brother Ezekiel, who has type 1 diabetes and would die without the insulin. However, doing so goes against all the Prophet's teachings, and Agnes lives a life which is otherwise "pure." Things are changing though, in her world and in the Outside, as the outsider she meets for medicine warns her.
Agnes must make hard decisions about who she is, the religion that raised her, and her own destiny.
What I loved: This book is highly addictive and captivating. Agnes and her story are something unique and different that speak to organized religion and cults, the problems with a black-and-white world view, sexism, the manifestation of God (as Agnes experiences), and faith. During the book, we see the world from 16-year-old Agnes and, to a lesser extent, her 15-year-old sister Beth's points-of-view, both intriguing, multidimensional, and heartfelt. Complicated love shines through the pages, primarily for humanity and family. This book gave me all the feels and chills as I was reading it, particularly right now when a plague feels somewhat prophetic (of course manifesting differently and with different consequences).
This book has elements of magical realism and the wonder of the world- for things we know and those we cannot yet know. The complexity of faith and religion is also touched on throughout in really intriguing ways. This is a truly thought-provoking read that will stick with me for some time.
Final verdict: Compelling and poignant, AGNES AT THE END OF THE WORLD is a fantastic read about humanity, faith, and love. The complexities and intricacies of the plot and relationships are beautifully combined into a triumph of dystopian fiction. Would highly recommend for fans of THE HUNGER GAMES, THE HANDMAID'S TALE, and THE GRACE YEAR.
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