My book club chose Heretics Anonymous by Katie Henry for our most recent read. My members and I really enjoyed it, and it sparked a great discussion. Before I begin my review, let’s look at the synopsis of the book on Goodreads:
When Michael walks through the doors of Catholic school, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow atheist at that. Only this girl, Lucy, isn’t just Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism.
Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies one stunt at a time. But when Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
First, I have to talk about the opening line of this book: There is something truly evil about plaid. It was kind of an odd sentiment – I mean, I’ve never heard anyone say that in my life – but it definitely caught my attention quickly! It made me want to keep reading to find out the reasoning behind this statement as well as want to meet the character who thinks plaid is evil.
Speaking of characters, there were quite a few in Heretics Anonymous. Our main character is Michael, an atheist going to a Catholic high school. If that paradox doesn’t intrigue you enough, wait till you meet his diverse friend group! There’s Lucy, a devout Catholic who wants to become a priest, even though only men can become priests. Then there’s Avi, an only child who is Jewish and gay. Eden is a pagan who has an altar in her room dedicated to multiple deities. And who can forget Max, an oddball who is a Unitarian and likes to wear a cape to school? Despite the large cast of characters, I never had trouble remembering each person’s characteristics. Every character was well-developed, including the side characters.
There were a lot of issues addressed in this book. Religion was obviously the most prominent one, but absent parents, sex education in schools, and the difficulties of navigating a new school and making new relationships were also explored. Now, some people may worry that Heretics Anonymous is going to shove a certain religion at them and expound on why that religion is the best. Fortunately, the author handles the religious aspect of the book in a tactful manner. Yes, the main character goes to a Catholic high school, but Michael and most of his friend group aren’t Catholic. Lucy, his one Catholic friend, respects Michael’s decision to be an atheist and never tries to convert him. Each person in this friend group respects the others’ religious beliefs, which was awesome!
***MAJOR SPOILERS IN NEXT PARAGRAPH***
By the end of the book, all the major problems introduced in the plot are resolved. There were a few loose ends that I wanted answers to, however. For example, I wanted a more concrete answer as to whether or not Lucy’s mother would ever come home. Yes, it seemed unlikely that she would, but I still wanted to know for sure. I also wanted to know if Avi ever forgave Michael. Everyone in Michael’s friend group has forgiven him by the end of the book except Avi. I assume Avi does eventually forgive Michael, but Eden’s line about Avi’s ability to hold a grudge earlier in the book makes me wonder.
***END OF SPOILERS***
Heretics Anonymous was a really good book! It had a great cast of characters and an intriguing plot and dealt with some real issues teens face today. I give it four out of five stars!
Quotes I Liked:
New life plan: form a band called Cosmic Killjoy.
Sister Helen waves her hand. “I’ve been in Egyptian mosques, in Buddhist temples, in beautiful synagogues in Warsaw and Jerusalem. I don’t need to believe in Buddha or wear a Star of David to find peace there.”