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Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
Cover of Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature
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Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.
All because you did the right thing.
Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.
And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.
From the Hardcover edition.
Your best friend hates you. The guy you liked hates you. Your entire group of friends hates you.
All because you did the right thing.
Welcome to life for Mena, whose year is starting off in the worst way possible. She's been kicked out of her church group and no one will talk to her—not even her own parents. No one except for Casey, her supersmart lab partner in science class, who's pretty funny for the most brilliant guy on earth.
And when Ms. Shepherd begins the unit on evolution, school becomes more dramatic than Mena could ever imagine . . . and her own life is about to evolve in some amazing and unexpected ways.
From the Hardcover edition.
Available formats-
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Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    4.9
  • Lexile:
  • Interest Level:
    MG
  • Text Difficulty:
    6 - 10

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Awards-
Excerpts-
  • From the book

    One

    I knew today would be ugly. When you're single-handedly responsible for getting your church, your pastor, and every one of your former friends and their parents sued for millions of dollars, you expect to make some enemies. Fine.

    It's just that I hoped my first day of school--of high school, thank you, which I've only been looking forward to my entire life--might turn out to be at least slightly better than eating live bugs. But I guess I was wrong.

    I knew I'd be seeing some of these people today, but in first period already? And it has to be none other than my former best friend and the pastor's daughter--two of the people who have cause to hate me the most.

    Having Teresa and Bethany in English might not be so bad if they'd just ignore me, but at the start of class when Mr. Kuhlman called, "Mena Reece," and I croaked out my "Here," Teresa had to turn her blond, spiky head around and shoot me the Look of Death, and I got that combined feeling of needing to throw up and possibly pee my pants.

    Think positive. Think positive.

    Why didn't my parents let me transfer? There are plenty of charter schools around, or they could have sent me to live with my aunt in Wyoming or with strangers in Alaska for all I care. But I know they want to see me punished. They pretend they've forgiven me, but I know deep down inside they hate me for writing that letter, just like everybody else.

    It's only been half an hour, and already I can tell this is going to be the worst day of my life. I don't know why I'm so surprised. I knew seeing everyone today would be hard. It's only been a month since they were all served with the lawsuit, and even though I've gotten plenty of hate e-mails and phone messages since then, it's not the same as having to deal with these people in person.

    I just didn't realize I'd be so scared. It's pathetic. What do I have to be afraid of? My conscience is clear. I didn't do anything wrong.

    No, correction: I did the right thing. And someday the truth shall set me free.

    Just not, apparently, today.

    Two

    Okay, at least second period wasn't so bad.

    Maybe the only good thing about going to New Advantage High School (motto: "Let brilliance find you"--whatever that's supposed to mean) is they count yoga as PE. Also archery, tai chi, and kickboxing. But I'm glad I picked yoga. If ever a girl needs an hour between English and biology to chill out and breathe deeply and try to prevent her oncoming heart attack, that's me. Plus, I don't know a single person in my yoga class, for which I am truly grateful.

    I wasn't sure my parents would let me take yoga. Pastor Wells was on this funk last year about how chanting during yoga or meditation is idol worship, because you're focused on a word or an image that isn't God and you're basically praying to it. He said the only acceptable way to meditate is to picture the Lord in front of you, his arms wide, a gentle smile on his face. Some women from the church even started their own class to teach us how to do it.

    So this morning while our teacher, Missy, led us through the pranas and the asanas, I thought about Jesus the whole time. I pictured us on a hillside together, lying back on the grass while his flock grazed all around us.

    I talked Jesus's ear off, but he smiled and let me go on. And when I had unloaded everything that was on my mind, he gave me a hug and called me Little Sister and told me everything will be all right.

    It will, won't it? It felt so good to believe it.

    Toward the end of class, Missy taught us some posture that I swear can only come in handy if you ever want to shave your own back. But our...

About the Author-
  • Robin Brande's first novel, Evolution, Me, and Other Freaks of Nature, was an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a Michigan Library Association Thumbs Up! Award Winner for Excellence in Teen/Young Adult Literature, a Children's Book Sense 76 Pick, an Amelia Bloomer Project Selection, and an NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. As an overweight teen, Robin tried her share of bizarre diets, including the fabulous broccoli and beets diet. Her book Fat Cat was born of the idea that a smart and scientific girl could devise a much more creative solution.
    Kaili Vernoff is an American actress who has appeared in The Path, Café Society, and Crisis in Six Scenes. Her narrating credits include Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande and Lily B. on the Brink of Cool by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel.
Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine The issue of evolution versus intelligent design is featured in this poignant coming-of-age story. Narrator Kaili Vernoff characterizes the ostracized Mena Reece, portraying her as a strong-willed and confident young woman who stands up for the underdog. Vernoff's depictions of the other characters are convincing as well: the righteous Pastor Wells; the clear-thinking science teacher, Ms. Shepherd; and other assorted "freaks of nature." Vernoff keeps the tone light and the pacing tight throughout, although the lesson of tolerance is clear. As an interesting bonus at the end of the audiobook, author Robin Brande interviews Dr. Kenneth Miller, a professor of biology, about the controversy of science versus religion and offers uncommon insight for listeners. D.L.M. (c) AudioFile 2008, Portland, Maine
  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 6, 2007
    Brande tackles fundamentalist thinking and the hot-button issue of evolution vs. intelligent design in her ambitious YA debut. Mena, an immediately likable narrator, spends the first week of high school dodging social and academic landmines. She's been banished from her fundamentalist church, where some members now face a lawsuit because of her, and her intimidating classmates/former church friends aren't about to let her forget it. The author's slow revelation of the back story will hook readers from the start: what could this nice girl possibly have done? “I did the right thing,” Mena tells herself on the opening day of school after her ex–best friend shoots her the “Look of Death.” “And someday the truth shall set me free. Just not, apparently, today.” When the narrative moves forward to introduce a dynamic new science teacher, Mena faces controversy once more. Luckily, a brainy (and cute) lab partner and his outspoken older sister help Mena find her footing. Brande stacks the decks against the creationists—their followers bully a kid they think might be gay; they turn on their children; they behave badly in general—but the fluid storytelling offers thought-provoking situations and ideas. Ages 12-up.

  • School Library Journal

    January 1, 2008
    Gr 7 Up-Mena, a high-school freshman, is harassed by her former church friends when she reports their mistreatment of a supposedly gay classmate. Her parents are punished for speaking out, too. In this novel, (Knopf, 2007), Robin Brande examines the religious right's influence, especially a debate over Darwin's theory of evolution versus intelligent design erupting in Mena's biology class. Luckily, the young woman's new friend, lab partner Casey, helps her get good grades as he captures her heart. Tension mounts for the pair when students from Mena's old church confront her biology teacher and Casey's politically savvy sister reports it all on her blog. Mena fears her parents will discover she's embracing more liberal views on God, and skirting the truth to keep visiting Casey's house. In the end, Mena shares her bible-based perspective to support her teacher's evolution curriculum and risks further punishment when she tells her parents the whole truth. Kalli Vernoff narrates with proper emotional intensity and, occasionally, tongue-in-cheek humor. Sure to spark discussion, this story is God-affirming, but questions conservative tactics to inject specific religious ideas into schools. The end of the audiobook offers a brief dialogue between the author and an expert on the connections that link faith and science. Fundamental Christians may object to their occasional one-dimensional portrayal, but middle-school, high-school, and public libraries will find few other titles that bring this current affairs question to teen listeners.Barbara Wysocki, Cora J. Belden Library, Rocky Hill, CT

    Copyright 2008 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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Robin Brande
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