cover image Leaving Fishers

Leaving Fishers

Margaret Peterson Haddix. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $17 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-689-81125-8

Haddix (Don't You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey) focuses here on the phenomenon of teen cults and religious fanaticism. Dorry Stevens is miserable at her new high school until a group of students recruits her for The Fishers of Men, an evangelical Christian club that requires complete devotion to God, which for them means adhering to inflexible club rules that don't always make sense to Dorry. The Fishers' kindness, self-confidence and ability to find parallels between events in the Bible and daily life draw Dorry into their circle, which is radically different from her home life (where talking about religion is either taboo or the subject of jokes). Haddix ably shows how Dorry's loneliness leads to a conversion experience she is open to but not ready for. Though uplifted by charismatic Pastor Jim and the inspiring church music, Dorry cannot ignore indications that her discipler has lied to her and that her days are being monopolized by Fishers meetings and demands. Although Cynthia Rylant's A Fine White Dust deals with the subjects of conversion and disillusionment with greater subtlety, Haddix's story suggests how easily insecure teens can fall prey to peer pressure. The book's greatest strength is Haddix's even-handed portrayal of the rewards of Christian fellowship and the dangers of a legalistic or black-and-white approach to religion. Ages 12-up. (Nov.)