This was the 2nd I chose to read from the Gateway nominees. And it was also a very good one.
Our main character is Kyra, a 13 year old girl who has grown up as part of a polygamist religious cult. Her father has 3 wives, and they live in homes that are in a circle. She has 20 brothers and sisters, and 2 of the mothers are pregnant. Their leader is called The Prophet, and he has some of the men who are his Apostles, all old men. Kyra is a bit rebellious, but in secret. She takes walks outside the isolated compound that the community lives in, and one day she came across a mobile library truck, and began checking books out. Now this is wonderful for Kyra, because at the time the current Prophet took over when his father died, he had all the books burned. Not only is she reading books she shouldn’t be, books like Bridge to Terabithia, The Borrowers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Anne of Green Gables, she also has built up a friendship/crush on a boy her age in their community named Joshua. Joshua wants to choose her when they grow up, and she wants to marry him. They have met in secret, held hands, kissed, made plans. She’s even taught him to play piano in an attempt to be with him without sneaking around.
When we begin, her father has heard that the Prophet has brought his name up, which means good things for his family could be coming. The Prophet and the Apostles have big homes, with fancy furniture and all they can use. It turns out this good news is that Kyra has been chosen for her Uncle Hyrum, her father’s 60 year old brother, who already has 6 wives.
This is a community where women are treated as property, and punished with beatings. Escaping is almost impossible. Children who are not quite right, if it is noticed when they are babies, well, they may be killed. At least since the new Prophet has taken over. The punishment that both Kyra and one of her younger sisters go through in this book is horrifying. The books is an intense read, and I could barely put it down.