WHEN WE WERE SAINTS

Han Nolan, Author . Harcourt $17 (291p) ISBN 978-0-15-216371-6

Nolan (Dancing on the Edge ) poses thought-provoking questions about religious fervor, faith and reason in this mysterious tale of two lost teens. Archie Caswell, the 14-year-old orphaned narrator, is a lonely, confused adolescent shaken by some disturbing events in his small Southern town. First his best friend moves away, then his grandfather (and guardian) takes ill. On his deathbed, Archie's grandfather (known as a prophet) makes a proclamation, pointing at Archie and saying, "Young man, you are a saint!" Archie doesn't feel very godly, but he starts to put some stock in the prophecy when a newcomer, Clare Simpson, convinces him that they are both being called by God. Nolan delicately explores the gray area between dedication and fanaticism as readers, through Archie, become alternately mesmerized by Clare's goodness and deep spirituality, and puzzled by her actions. After Clare convinces Archie to join her on a pilgrimage to the Cloisters in New York City, the journey reveals deeper issues; he begins to wonder whether he and Clare are following the right path or chasing an illusion that could lead them to harm. This deeply philosophical and psychologically complex novel will hold readers rapt for the author's skillfully drawn characters and her exploration of the role of religion and faith in coming of age. While Archie is cast as a sympathetic hero struggling to find himself, the enigma of the more remote Clare is what keeps the pages turning; audience members are left to ponder whether she is truly a Christ figure or an emotionally disturbed teen bent on self-destruction. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/20/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
Genre: Children's
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-606-33421-1
Prebound-Sewn - 291 pages - 978-0-7569-5249-5
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-0-15-205322-2
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-547-35132-2
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