Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Miracle Stealer - Neil Connelly

Title: The Miracle Stealer
Author: Neil Connelly
Publisher: Scholastic, 2012 (Paperback)
Length: 230 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Realistic Fiction
Started: March 18, 2013
Finished: March 19, 2013

From the author's website:

There was a time when Anderson Grant believed. She never doubted the goodness of the people at her church. She trusted both her parents. And she felt unshakeable faith in a kind and all-powerful God.

But then a freak accident nearly killed Daniel, her three-year-old brother. After his rescue, strange rumors about Daniel began spreading around town. The faithful claimed he could intercede with Jesus, cleanse the soul, heal the sick, even raise the dead.

The media trumpeted Daniel as a Miracle Boy, and the number of those believing in him swelled. They descended on Anderson's small town, along with a horribly scarred preacher and a dangerous stalker. Now Anderson is certain of only one thing: she has to stop this.

With the help of her once-and-maybe-future boyfriend Jeff, she dreams up a dangerous scheme that will forever cast doubt on Daniel's so-called divine gifts. If it works.

But as the plan comes together, the true believers grow more bold, the psycho stalker draws near, and the disfigured preacher challenges Anderson's resolve. She finds herself wrestling with her own beliefs in God and her brother, and she's left wondering if what she really needs to save Daniel might just be a miracle of her own.

Nineteen-year-old Andi lives in the small town of Paradise, Pennsylvania, and has put her life on hold to look out for her little brother, Daniel. Three years after surviving being buried in a mine shaft for several days, now six-year-old Daniel has been hailed as a religious healer by the townspeople. Only Andi sees the emotional turmoil Daniel endures when the desired outcomes don't happen, how the citizens badger Daniel that he needs to pray harder. What makes matters worse is that their mother encourages the beliefs, even against the wishes of their father, who left the family as a result of the events regarding Daniel. When the town is flooded with pilgrims who flock to Daniel to be healed and begin to present a danger to their family, Andi decides to put into motion a plan that she hopes will make everyone leave Daniel alone.

The premise of this book is if nothing else, unique. The examination of varying degrees of faith (overzealous/Jesus freak faith, lack of faith, confusion about faith etc.) is thought-provoking and the circumstances really make you feel for Andi and Daniel and just want to swoop in and rescue them from the bible thumpers that placed their faith solely on the actions of a little boy and the members of the media that perpetuate it.

However, as the story progresses things go downhill. The subplot with Jeff is inconsequential, and the plot that Andi concocts is completely unrealistic and more appropriate of an inexperienced 10-year-old rather than an intelligent 19-year-old. The ending smacks of thinly veiled Christian literature and to me feels like taking the easy way out regarding Andi's beliefs.

Wonderful premise that starts out well but doesn't follow through.

Thoughts on the cover:
It's okay, but suffers from the "let's have a huge close up of a girl's face as the entire focal point" syndrome that YA covers tend to have.

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