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Daredevils

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  657 ratings  ·  130 reviews
From the winner of 2014’s PEN Robert W. Bingham Prize, an unforgettable debut novel about Loretta, a teenager married off as a “sister wife,” who makes a break for freedom

At the heart of this exciting debut novel, set in Arizona and Idaho in the mid-1970s, is fifteen-year-old Loretta, who slips out of her bedroom every evening to meet her so-called gentile boyfriend. Her
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Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 3.50  · 
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 ·  657 ratings  ·  130 reviews


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Kent Winward
Mar 09, 2016 rated it really liked it
I reviewed Godforsaken Idaho and I got an email from GoodReads that it was my most read review, so I felt compelled to grab Vestal's newest book as soon as it came available.

I enjoy Vestal's writing and it doesn't hurt that I grew up in the 70s, was raised Mormon, was born in Southern Idaho, watched Evel Knievel on Wide World of Sports, and lived in Southern Utah for awhile. My daughters actually had a fundamentalist girl as their nanny for a time when they were growing up. So of course this
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Summer Smith
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
I love a good coming-of-age story, throw in some Mormon polygamists and you got yourself a page-turner.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
There are not many Mormons in fiction and I'm not sure why, perhaps because they remain a mystery to non-Mormons. Shawn Vestal lived in the region he writes about and knows it well, it comes across in the portrayal of the landscape (from jackrabbits to sand flats) and the normalizing of LDS people vs. the fundamentalist polygamists found in the book. I mean, in what universe are the LDS people the normal ones? That would only make sense to someone who knows Mormonism and has lived in ...more
Kelly
Jan 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Could NOT. PUT. IT. DOWN.

(Full disclosure: I received a free e-ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape and child abuse.)

"She thinks of the thick dowel that had been lodged against the sliding window in her bedroom. Dean had cut the wood to size, and climbed a ladder to her second-story window and put it there, so even on the hottest days she cannot slide it open. She thinks of the gold. A bag of gold like in a fairy tale. She thinks of taking that gold away from him, and
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Teresa O'Halloran
Loretta is a beautiful teenage girl, and she wants to do what most teenage girls want to do. Date boys, go out in the evenings, drink beer and generally let her hair down. Except Loretta belongs to a strict Mormon family and all of those things that Loretta wants to do are forbidden.

When Loretta's father discovers that Loretta has been climbing out of her bedroom window at night to meet a boy, he is livid. He locks her in her bedroom and nails her window shut. Which is bad enough, but then he
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Taryn
Oct 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016-release
We all have topics we can’t pass up, that consistently hook our interest, and for me, Mormon fundamentalists are near the top of that list. Ever since I read Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, I’ve been fascinated with this secretive sect, the ways leaders manipulate and coerce their followers, and how they clash with governing authorities outside their own twisted hierarchy. So when I read about Daredevils, a novel about a teenage girl running away from a ...more
Vikki
This books flips through many characters' points of view but the main ones are Loretta, a 15 year old whose rebellious ways cause her to become the second wife of an older fundamentalist Mormon man; a 17 year old boy named Jason who lives in a mainstream Mormon community but no longer believes in the religion and longs to escape; and Evel Knievel, Jason's childhood idol. This book is predictable but the way it is written makes you feel for each of the characters and makes you nostalgic for ...more
Kat Leache
Oct 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Why aren't there half stars on Goodreads?! On the 4 side of 3.5 stars. Good writing, promising concept, just didn't end up much of anywhere.
Taylor Knight
Apr 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was so incredibly interesting. I could barely put it down at times. I loved that it took place in the 1970s. I loved the characters and how complex and different they were. Everything was so well written, it blew my mind.
I highly recommend this to book everyone.

I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Kim McGee
Feb 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
I would describe "Daredevils" not as a coming of age story but more of a "loss of innocence" story.
Each of the main characters loses their innocence in one way or another. Loretta is the pivot point and she loses her innocence early when she sneaks out of her strict Mormon home to meet her older boyfriend. She then loses her innocence again as she is married off as a sister wife to Dean. When the family moves to a different state and Dean rejoins his brother and family, he loses his innocence
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Suzanne
Apr 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a uniquely 1970s coming of age story set in isolated communities of fundamentalist LDS believers along the Arizona border. Three teenagers, from families that did not originate from FLDS communities, moved and became semi-involved when they were middle school aged. The transition left each child yearning for a former life and a sense of belonging that their current lives could not provide. As each child struggled to assert their independence, they were pushed back to conform. No one more ...more
Matt
Jan 26, 2016 rated it liked it
The American story is of one of progress and movement, of believing we should have more freedom and prosperity than what our forefathers had. That's Plymouth Rock. That's Manifest Destiny. It's the never ending push for more, new, better, with the pull of a hastily created, though sacredly invoked, shared history. The characters in Shawn Vestal's heartfelt and achingly human Daredevils play out this complex, contradictory American drama. The central characters, teenagers Loretta and Jason, long ...more
Clare Doornbos
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Megan
Some beautiful writing, and some heart-in-your-throat excellent descriptions of breaking free and breaking past and forging those cracks that'll let in your future, and some good if not particularly deep thematic work about masculinity, but I was disappointed by the final parts of the story (the book's description on its GoodReads page mostly covers the plot of said final parts, and it's an unpleasant rush of Stuff Happening and Things Changing after so much stasis in the first parts of the ...more
RoseMary Achey
Dec 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
The blurb on the back of this book was very intriguing:

Fifteen-year-old Loretta slips out of her bedroom to meet her "Gentile" boyfriend. This time, her strict Mormon parents catch her returning , and soon marry her to the upstanding Dean Harder, a fundamentalist with a wife and a brood of kids, some not much younger than Loretta herself.

Unfortunately, the character development was not as strong as it should have been. The events that transpired in the novel seemed too contrived. Finally, it was
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Ashley Jolly Vater
Mar 28, 2016 rated it it was ok
“You can’t hide yourself away. You’ve got to live in this world, and keep it off you somehow. But, you ought to have a little fun when you get the chance.”

Daredevils is the first book that I've ever requested and received from a publishing company in exchange for a review (I'll elaborate more at the end). I wish that the results had been better.

This book is scheduled to be released on April 12, 2016. I had such high hopes for this from reading the description, thus the reason I requested it.
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Olga
Apr 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I didn't expect I'd love reading this book so much! I actually couldn't put it down till 2 AM. You can look at this book at the different angles. It can be read as a coming of age story. Or as a road trip tale. Or as a religion story.

For me the most interesting part was Loretta's character development. She is married off as a sister wife (OK, isn't this kind of a 'Game of Thrones' vibe here?) to a FLDS member at 15 years
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Robin
Feb 27, 2016 rated it really liked it
Daredevils is a coming of age road story centered on 15 year old Loretta, who after sneaking out of her house one night is then "given" to a much older Mormon elder by her parents in marriage. The repercussions of this act only make Loretta more determined to escape her doomed future. Throw in polygamy, Evel Knievel, Mormonism, and Teenagers risking it all for some freedom and you have one joyride of a story.
Robin Kempf
Apr 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I don't know what it was about this book, but it caught me in just the right moment. I couldn't put it down. The glimpse into 1970s fundamentalist Mormon sects side by side with the phenomenon that was Evel Knievel was a fascinating juxtaposition. Also, the author provides an interesting depiction of how teens try to figure out what is important to them as is different than their parents and how they sometimes are not so wise in choosing how they go about doing so.
Eva
Jan 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
It took me a long time to read this book because I got tired of the Evel K. interludes and I stopped reading. I finally finished it for our library book club and I’m glad I did. There are a lot of interesting character studies and ideas about freedom and what people really want. If I had tons of time I’d like to read it again but there are so many other books!
Kristina Harper
Feb 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
I really liked this story of a young sister wife desperate to escape her fundamentalist Mormon life. It feels authentic and, in fact, incorporates the Short Creek (now Colorado City) raid of 1953, when the authorities briefly liberated wives and children from their polygamist husbands. Evel Knievel serves as a symbol of freedom, of having the daring to live your own life, and his story is woven throughout. Definitely worth a read if you’re curious at all about the fundamentalist Mormons—I couldn ...more
Penny Schmuecker
Feb 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If you’re a child of the ‘70’s, Daredevils by Shawn Vestal, can seem like a trip down memory lane. Bands like Led Zeppelin, Foghat, the book The Hobbit, and the 70’s cultural icon Evel Knievel serve as backdrops to this engrossing novel about a young girl, Loretta, whose life just turned in a direction that she didn’t see coming.

At 15, Loretta is living the care-free life of the typical American teen. She sneaks out at night, joins up with friends, and has a boyfriend that her parents don’t
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Andy Miller
Nov 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
The novel starts out great, alternating chapters of two coming of age stories; one of 15 year old Loretta whose family belongs to a fundamentalist, polygamist LDS sect isolated from society on the Utah/Arizona border, the other of Jason who lives with a traditional LDS family in Twin Falls Idaho. The early chapters describe the rebellions of both. Loretta escapes at night to meet friends especially a young man but is eventually caught by her dad who punishes her, confines her to home and ...more
Michael
Jan 25, 2016 rated it liked it
My review for this novel was published in the 3/15/16 edition of Library Journal:

The go-for-broke spirit of legendary daredevil Evel Knievel is with two Mormon teenagers as they try to break out of their rigidly structured lives in this debut novel, set in the 1970s, from award-winning short-story writer Vestal (Godforsaken Idaho). After her father catches her sneaking out to meet her boyfriend, 15-year-old Loretta is hastily married off to Dean Harder, a polygamist whose strict adherence to
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Debbie
Oct 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a different kind of book in that for the most part it dealt with two brothers and their families. One was a Mormon and was a polygamist. They lived miles apart until their father died and then the polygamist brother moved his family next door to his brother in his father's house. So the book dealt with those differences.

Then each family had a seventeen year old. The mormon's had a son and the other family had a very unhappy sister wife. They decide they aren't happy with their lives
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Diana
I got this ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. And honestly, it left me a little cold.

The story is told from the point of view of several different characters. The main one is Loretta, who has grown up in a fundamentalist Mormon community that believes in the principle of plural marriage. She's married off to a much older man at the age of 15 after her parents find out that she's been sneaking out of the house at night to participate in normal teenage rebellion activities.
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Literary Lass
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Visit Literary Lass for more reviews & giveaways

Really nothing exciting about this story or characters. A coming of age story with stupid kids rebelling making poor choices. Pretty formulaic as far as mutinous Mormons go – they are either on board with church and doctrine et al or swing the opposite way and become traitorous in choices and actions. This novel selected the predictable latter version, to be honest stereotypical across the board. Tad bit boring, competent writing, heavy on
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missy jean
Sep 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
Fantastic literary fiction set in the cosmos of 1970s Mormonism and Fundamentalism. I'm so impressed with how deftly and compassionately Vestal navigates questions of gender, power, identity, faith, religion and the flight and freedom from it. It's also beautifully written and conjures up Utah and Idaho landscapes in a way that will be familiar for anyone who's spent time there.

I loved this book (though I do feel compelled to clarify, since I have lots of orthodox Mormons on my friends list
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Erika
Feb 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
This was one of the spring books I was most excited to read, and for the most part, the story lived up to the lofty expectations I had set for it.

It helped that the concept was so brilliant: Loretta, a rebellious Mormon girl, escapes her creepy polygamous marriage and oppressive family by hitting the road with her husband's nephew and his best friend. There were times over the course of the story in which Loretta, as a character, didn't feel 100% believable to me...but these moments were far
...more
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Shawn Vestal is a columnist and reporter for The Spokesman-Review in Spokane and was raised in the Mormon faith. His stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Tin House, American Short Fiction, EcoTone, Best American Fantasy, and other places.