Zylynn has always lived with the Children Inside the Light. She's eagerly anticipating her 13th birthday, less than two weeks away, when she is taken Outside and forced to live with her father and stepmother. She knows she can't trust a word they say - she's been told they are Liars - and she is determined to return to the compound before her very important 13th birthday, when she will go through the Ceremony and become an adult. But her father and stepmother's kindness is wearing down her walls. They let her eat as much as she wants and she gets to wear colors and have her own possessions. Will she be strong enough to return to the Light, or will she miss her Ceremony and live in Darkness forever?
I love stories, real or imagined, about people who escape strict religious cults. This particular book is aimed more at a middle grade audience, and our protagonist is much younger than the typical 16-year old escapee from other books. She's confused because she only knows what she's been taught in the cult, so she does things like sleep with the lights on, hoard extra food under her bed, and refer to her parents by their first names. She doesn't know about wearing clothes with colors, or what an iPad is, or what it feels like to ride in a car. She tries desperately to return to the compound, to the things she finds familiar, but there's a pull in the novelty of things like strawberries, a room of one's own, and love.
I love that this story is told from Zylynn's point of view. We see her confusion and struggle over living in this strange, new world. We see her desperation to return to the compound, and the love and patience of her family. When Zylynn hoards food, her stepmother puts it in containers for her, but leaves it under the bed where she had it, even though it is rotting. No one turns off her light at night while she sleeps because she is used to sleeping under bright lights. I read this book in one sitting, which is something I very rarely do. Recommended.
Recommended for: middle grade, teens, fans of religious cult stories
Red Flags: kids in the cult are neglected and starved, they are punished with what I'll have to call "mild stoning" [yes, with rocks, but little ones],
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars
Read-Alikes: The Giver, Watch the Sky, Devoted, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, A Good Courage