Title: Heretics Anonymous
Author: Katie Henry
Publication Date: August 7, 2018
Synopsis: Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s – a strict Catholic school – sporting a plaid tie, 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 nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just Catholic…she wants to be a priest. But 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. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission to 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.
Heretics Anonymous follows the main character, Michael (a self-proclaimed atheist), as he is transferred in to a prestigious Catholic high-school. Michael has to learn to survive in this school that is saturated in Christian beliefs and ideologies, but he doesn’t do it alone. He finds a few friends – none of whom share his opinions and beliefs, but they are all heretics in their own rite. The Heretics decide that they’re going to change the school for the better, and they start enacting vigilante justice on the dress code, curriculum, and newspaper. Things start to get out of hand when Michael takes it a step too far, jeopardizing his time at the school, as well as his relationship to the other Heretics. Can he turn it around, and mend bridges he blow-torched?
“When you hurt people,” he says, “even if you didn’t mean to, you don’t get to choose where they go from there. When you hurt someone, it stops being about you, or what you want.”
I read Heretics Anonymous over the summer, and I thought it was fantastic. I grew up as the daughter of a pastor. I bounced around from being home-schooled, to going to a private school, and back to being home-schooled. I questioned my faith, my style choices, my politics, and so much more – so I definitely resonated with each and every one of these characters.
I thought that Katie Henry did an amazing job crafting characters that were influenced by the Christian environment they were surrounded by, but she also managed to keep each of them unique, and they all dealt with their own struggles.
I saw a similarity in their antics, to the antics that me and my classmates got up to when we were in private school together. You read between the lines of the dress-code, and you find the loopholes wherever you can. If the dress-code says you must wear a tie on chapel days, but doesn’t specify HOW…well then the tie can, and will, be tied around a kid’s forehead for the duration of the day.
Katie Henry graciously treads the balance of religion very carefully. She treats every character and their beliefs (or lack-thereof) with grace and respect. She never ridicules a character for believing in God, or following the principles of the Catholic faith. She also has characters from several other religions and she portrays them in the same light. She obviously cares very much about making sure that everyone represented is given their fair share of respectful representation.
I found this book to be absolutely hilarious – I was crying of laughter in places. If you have any background in the Christian religion (whether you were Catholic or some other denomination) – your sides will be splitting. Katie Henry is a master of humor in this novel!
The only bad thing that I have to say, is that it took me a little while to find the plot. At times it seemed a bit slow, and I couldn’t always tell where the story was going (aside from hilarious private school antics) – it was difficult to find the point of the novel. However, that was resolved pretty quickly, and the novel progressed fine after about the halfway point.
Overall, I think this book is definitely worth a read, and you should pick up a copy immediately! It’s full of lighthearted humor, and a kid’s struggle through religion. If you’ve ever had any questions about what it’s like to go to a private Christian school…all your questions will be answered in this novel! Definitely four stars!