I'm fascinated by cults. Being not religious at all, I want to understand the mindset of people who will follow a charismatic leader in a religion tha...moreI'm fascinated by cults. Being not religious at all, I want to understand the mindset of people who will follow a charismatic leader in a religion that seems really extreme, and which often separates them from their friends and families, as well as their finances. The most notorious of cults to me is Jonestown. This is the Guyana settlement of the Peoples Temple, lead by Jim Jones. It's the place where we get the phrase "drank the Kool-Aid," which is in reference to the suicide (and homicide) of over 900 people by drinking Flavor-Aid full of cyanide. How can you get people to willingly do that to themselves, their families, their friends? I want to understand.
What Fondakowski gives us in this book are the insights of the survivors and family members of those who died at Jonestown. It isn't a straight ahead narration--we already know how Jonestown ends on November 18, 1978. We know that a Congressman is shot and killed right before the group suicide/homicide. Rather, what is great about this book is how much of it consists of verbatim interviews. The Jonestown survivors tell us what happened, and the aftermath, in their own words. Fondakowski does some editorializing, since it would be nearly impossible not to do so. By getting deeply involved with the survivors, she becomes part of the story.
While the narratives put forth are extremely touching, lending humanity to an almost unfathomable tragedy, I did wish from time to time that Fondakowski had tailored the narrative of the book to be more linear. There were times when there was repetition of information given earlier in an interview that readers didn't need recapped again.
I learned a great deal from reading this book. I learned about the joy that some felt in Jonestown, how it was a community where they felt that all races were equal. I learned about some of the atrocities and psychological torture people were subjected to who stepped out of Jones' ideal behaviors. I learned some of the reasons why members joined in the first place, about those who still say they were not brainwashed, and the pain of losing your family. I think this is required reading for anybody curious about Jonestown and the ways that even the most Utopian society can turn sour and deadly.(less)
Struck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intr...moreStruck surpassed my expectations of what this book would be. Instead of merely being yet another YA paranormal romance, I found myself pleasantly intrigued by the lightning addiction, post-mega natural disaster Los Angeles, and the cult theme. Plus, Bosworth has given us another strong female character who takes control of her situation instead of acting passively. Combined with fast-paced storytelling and the high stakes of needing to save the world, this adds up to a really strong debut novel.
I used to live in Los Angeles. I love L.A., as the song goes. And so I was delighted to see Los Angeles presented in the aftermath of a giant destructive earthquake. Californians are always expecting the “big one,” and Struck takes place after such an earthquake has hit. The details of how L.A.’s destruction has affected everyday life, and how people are struggling to continue with life even though aid is slow coming was touching and seemed truthful.
Mia is a pretty rad main character. She has Lichtenberg figures decorating most of her body: branch-like darkening of her skin where lightning has struck and spread. Google it. Mia attracts lightning, but also craves it. Lightning has burned her clothes off, and has made her heart stop on multiple occasions. While this makes her totally cool, it also sets her apart from those around her.
The villain of the story is a cult leader named The Prophet. He interprets the disaster as a precursor to the Second Coming, and uses a television show to gain support. In fact, his numbers have swelled because he was able to predict the time of the earthquake, causing many to believe that he is the real deal. I love books with cults, so the inclusion of this made me really happy.
The only downside for me in Struck is that it has yet another insta-romance, which I’m pretty much over. However, that wasn’t the central point of the story, and there was enough going on that I didn’t actually mind too much. I think Struck was one of the stronger YA paranormal books of the year I’ve read so far, and definitely fun enough to garner a read by somebody who is casually interested.(less)