I remember the first time I heard about the evolution vs creationism debate, I asked my mother what she thought about it. She said, “Well, if God wanted to use evolution, God certainly could have.” In Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature, Mena’s science teacher would certainly agree. She tells the class that science is the “how of things” while religion is the “why of things” and while it’s not her place to teach religion (the whole separation of church and state idea), she doesn’t see why the two can’t peacefully coexist.
Mena herself is trying to reconcile her faith and what she’s been taught all her life by her parents and church with the science that is being taught in the classroom. Complicating matters slightly: her church has banned her, her parents are angry with her and her friends have abandoned her because she wrote a letter that got her church sued. Meanwhile, she is starting to really respect her science teacher and she has a cute, brainy new lab partner, Casey, who just might be more than just a friend to her. That puts Mena smack dab in the center of controversy involving science, religion and the freedom to think for yourself.
Author Robin Brande, who has served as a Sunday school teacher at church, knows her science and her religion and presents the case for a "biblically sanctioned" view of evolution well. Less convincing were her one-sided portrayals of the church group kids. I have a hard time believing that kids who are so sheltered that they know nothing about The Lord of the Rings would be allowed out of the house with sexy t-shirts two sizes too small (shapeless dresses or culottes being more the norm) or even be allowed to attend public school for that matter. I can accept that they may be narrow minded and be easily swayed into collective actions like turning their desks backwards to protest the teaching of evolution, but I find it more difficult to believe that they would be such bullies – using physical intimidation and cussing in public – when it is my experience that fundamentalist church kids are more like “Turn the other cheek” and “The meek will inherit the earth”. Granted, Mena does defend the pastor’s “misguided” daughter by saying she has pure intentions, but on the whole, I was slightly bothered by the over-the-top villainy of the church kids and Pastor Wells (his sermon at church was so unbelievably mean-spirited, it was campy).
What I really do love about this novel is that it is respectful to both science and religion and encourages discussion. Not only that, Mena has a great voice that will especially appeal to those of us from strict households. Plus, it’s just fun to read (AND it has 12 cute puppies in it – what more do you NEED?). Head over to http://www.biblegrrrl.com/ for a great interview with the author.