Plot Summary: Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated community without questioning the fact that her father has three wives and she has twenty brothers and sisters, with two more on the way. That is, without questioning them much---if you don’t count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with Joshua, the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But when the Prophet decrees that she must marry her sixty-year-old uncle---who already has six wives---Kyra must make a desperate choice in the face of violence and her own fears of losing her family forever.
In a lot of stories like this, the main character is often meek, quiet, and obedient. Not so of Kyra. She’s not a firecracker, but she certainly knows her mind and is not afraid to stand up for herself. I absolutely loved this about her. It’s rare to see this in adults, so seeing it in a teenager, even a fictional one, is refreshing.
On top of that, the story is riveting and interesting, and I found myself cheering for more Kyra’s family, even though their lifestyle is something I disagree with. That’s some serious authorial talent.
I also want to say that this story isn’t about polygamy. It’s about self-respect. There aren’t many stories out there that handle this as well as THE CHOSEN ONE. I highly recommend it.
As with all my book discussions, there are SPOILERS below.
What I liked most about this book is that it doesn’t make judgments and it doesn’t preach. It doesn’t say that polygamy is bad or good, just that it’s a different lifestyle. And Kyra’s family is a good one. It’s full of love, friendship, and camaraderie. Her parents are good parents, her siblings are typical, and they all happen to believe it’s okay to have more than one wife. It’s just how they were raised.
It’s when the Prophet enters the story that things get bad. But I think it’s clear that the Prophet doesn’t symbolize polygamy. He’s just an example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely. He pronounces that Kyra must marry her uncle – her uncle by blood, as in her father’s brother. Her uncle is a violent man, physically abusing babies for crying too much and demanding complete and total obedience from his wives. Basically, everyone in his household is his slave.
Kyra has so much self-respect that, aside from him being her uncle, she knows she can never marry him. Even though she knows her family will suffer for it, she can’t go willingly into slavery. So she flees everything she’s ever known. At thirteen. Talk about incredible bravery.
My one complaint is that the ending was too abrupt. I realize that there will be many unanswered questions because Kyra is on a completely unknown path, and I didn’t expect Kyra to renounce polygamy, but there were some dangling plot threads that needed attention. Did her testimony make a difference? Will it help her family? Why doesn’t she worry about her family more, since she knows what’s going to happen to them? If just a little more had been included, the story would have been stellar. Still, it’s really, really good.