As a public middle school teacher, I keep up with the books my students read. So many books present the kids with an evolutionary philosopy that permeates our culture. Below is a recent book review I've written.
Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande
Book Review by Teresa Beck
I just finished reading this young adult novel that was nominated as a Texas Lone Star book for 2009-2010. Middle school students all across Texas will be reading this book during this school year because Lone Star books are historically among the best new young adult books available. As a sixth-grade language arts and reading teacher in a Texas public school, this concerns me.
The book is told from the point of view of Mena, a freshman in high school who is being ostracized by her church and friends because she did the right thing: after a reportedly homosexual boy her church and youth group were terrorizing in eighth grade tried to kill himself, she apologized for their actions. In her apology, she unintentionally implicated the pastor and others who are now being sued by the boy’s parents.
Mena’s biology teacher and her science-geek lab partner are the only ones who are nice to her, and they are characterized as extremely intelligent, reasonable, and compassionate people. They are strongly in line with the philosophy of Kenneth R. Miller, whose advice Mrs. Brande used, in his book, Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. Mena feels like an intellectual insect compared to them because they are so knowledgeable about all of the science things she doesn’t understand.
Mena’s parents, former friends, and pastor are all characterized as ignorant and bigoted. They hate homosexuals, and they want intelligent design, which is purported to be creationism in disguise, taught in school. All of the kids from the church youth group turn their chairs around in science class whenever the teacher says the word “evolution.” Mena’s former friends slam into her in the halls and in class, cuss at her, and generally try to make her life miserable. When Mena’s parents bring her to church with them after keeping her away for a long time, the pastor uses a scripture concerning Judas and basically tells them to go hang themselves. The congregation applauds. The clear message of the book is that all Christians who believe homosexuality is wrong and Genesis is history are idiots and hate-mongers.
The science in the book is lacking. The science teacher gives examples of natural selection and virus mutation, and then concludes that slime to scientist evolution must be correct. The fossil record and billions of years are reported as indisputable support for evolution. Intelligent design is called “philosophy” while evolution is fact. Mena uses Jacob’s breeding of Laban’s sheep so that he would get more spotted ones as an example to demonstrate that ancient man knew about evolution before Darwin did. She also uses the parable of the talents to demonstrate that Jesus taught survival of the fittest, so He believed in evolution as well. Mena ultimately concludes that she believes in both God and Evolution.
Sadly, I believe this book will be a powerful tool to turn Christian kids who do not have a firm foundation to Mena’s conclusion. It uses emotional situations and the clear message that faith in the accuracy and authority of the Bible concerning creation and the flood is not necessary for a Christian and will brand the Christian as an anti-intellectual extremist.