The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
by Stephanie Oakes

published June 9th 2015 by Dial Books
young adult | contemporary

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The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it’s clear that Minnow knows something—but she’s not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Book Review

There has been so much hype and hoopla around The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, and it’s quite easy to see why. This is a haunting and memorable story that tackles some horrible, grim topics. However, I just wasn’t able to connect to the story as much as I wished I could have.

The cult has taken everything 17-year-old Minnow Bly holds dear: her hands, her family, the one boy she used to love. Now, the leader of the cult is dead and, for the first time in her life, Minnow is forced into the real world, a world she never imagined existed.

Minnow is the type of character you can’t help but love. She’s been through so many painful and horrifying events in her life, yet she still tries her hardest to hold an optimistic outlook on everything.

However, I feel that after all the suffering she has gone through, after living in a cult for her entire life, her psychological state must have been affected somehow. Yet, she doesn’t seem harmed or numbed by anything that’s happened to her. I wish that there was more exploration on how being in a cult affected her psychologically, as her reactions and her endless optimism, although inspiring, seemed a little unrealistic at times.

I think the lack of psychological impact all of these situations had on Minnow almost made it a bit harder to connect to the story emotionally. Everything that’s happened to Minnow is downright appalling, but she remains placid about everything that’s happened to her, which makes me as a reader feel somewhat placid about all these horrifying monstrosities too.

Nonetheless, this is an important book that will open your eyes to what it’s like for the thousands of people who live in cults in our world. Minnow’s story may be fictional, but theirs is a horrifying reality.

Skulls 3.5

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About Zoe

Zoe is a critical reviewer. When she’s not reviewing, you can find her performing in plays / musicals, doing gymnastics, or designing websites.

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16 thoughts on “Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

  1. This does sound like a real grim book. Come to think of it o_O

    Cults, you say? *shudders*

    I totally get where you’re coming from. I always get dumbstruck whenever I read a character who goes through a REALLY traumatic experience coming out UNSCATCHED in their emotional/psychological state. Doesn’t seem…. real somewhat.

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  2. I do see what you mean about her psychological state. I assumed she was almost numb, that was how I took it. Like, I know personally, when I am in a crisis/traumatic situation, I am somehow able to disconnect. Which is weird, because during mundane stuff, I am a mess ;) But I guess I could just relate to her coping on a personal level? I can see how that would make it super hard to connect though! I do wish we were able to see a longer aftermath- because I had to assume that at some point, she collapsed, and spent months in inpatient therapy or something, right?

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  3. You can argue that Minnow is trying to disconnect from the experience: repressing her emotions and whatnot in order for her to move on and to survive. But I think it comes down to whether the book was executed in a way that you can see that happening or if the author really didn’t bother to put any emotional consideration to the protagonist. Great review!

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  4. I’m kind of fascinated by cult life. I think it’s interesting but I don’t know that I’ll ever get around to reading this one. Thanks for sharing your review!

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  5. I thought the premise of cults sounded incredibly fabulous! I’ve read a couple of reviews but haven’t come across the mention that Minnow wasn’t really scarred by her experiences — that could be a dealbreaker for me, but this seems too good to ignore completely, so it’s staying on my TBR for now :D

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  6. This book looks like such an important read, and I’m really excited to try it out. However, the fact that Minnow remains so… unaffected would prevent me from connecting to the story . that pretty much eliminates the realism of the story. Great review, though.

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  7. I’ve heard great things about this book, but I’m somehow really scared to pick it up. I will, eventually, but I’m sure it will be incredibly hard to read. Great review! :)

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  8. I loved this book so, so much.

    Just out of curiosity, did you feel that there was any type of impact from living in the cult? I felt that Minnow was almost slow or a bit odd, like she just had no idea what the hell to do with herself. I think it would have been great to address PTSD with her – I am pretty sure she was still in shock.

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  9. It IS pretty dark considering isn’t it. I felt the same Zoe and wondered why she barely had any kind of emotional reaction to what was going on around her, but she seemed more in a state of shock, or just not reacting. It gave it that extra creep factor seeing her so emotionally frozen though. I’m so glad you were still able to enjoy it though Zoe, it really was a remarkable debut. Incredible review as always lovely girl <3 <3

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  10. I thought the same thing Zoe! I was actually connected with Angel more than I was with Minnow. And yeah, Minnow does seem pretty normal despite her circumstances, but regardless it does open your eyes to what could be happening in situations like this.

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