Review - The Book of Jude by Kimberley Heuston

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Tonight by The Afters.

My reviews are a bit different than most. As an undercover superhero (ordinary girl extraordinaire), my purpose is to try and uncover hidden gems lost from the familiar radar. Because of this, I have set up some guidelines for myself (just like the pirate code). :)

I will focus on YA and Children's literature (with very rare exceptions).
I will not review any book that is one of the top 25,000 selling books (based on Amazon ranks).
I will try and aim for books 100,000 or larger.
I will review recent books or books of great merit (preferably both).

The Book of Jude by Kimberley Heuston
Published: April 2008
Publisher: Front Street
Pages: 217
Current Amazon Rank: #1,317,547

Author's Website:

The First Line:
We aren't exactly hiding.

My Take:
This books is like fresh lemonade in summer. It is cool and refreshing, but is meant to be savored and drunk slowly. Jude is a vivacious and wonderfully imaginative young girl in a New York Mormon family in 1989 (a nice refreshing change for a "historical" novel. Usually they are hundreds of years in the past. It was fun to see things like pop tarts mentioned). However, she has flashes of anger which are not helped when Jude's mom whisks their entire family away to Czechoslovakia on a Fullbright Scholarship she's received there to study art. Jude does not take well to the move and slowly, with her, you begin to see and feel her life unravel as her imagination quickly deteriorates into a previously unknown mental illness as she becomes unable to differentiate between reality and nightmares as the Iron Curtain country around her shifts between iron-fisted control into chaos.

This is a deep and heavy book in many ways (everything from religion to mental illness to the political turmoil of the Iron Curtain and sustaining complex family relationships to boot), but the author deftly weaves it in such a way that it is beautiful. Her language and ability to pull you into Jude's world is incredible. Everything is so carefully wrought, from the historic details you don't gloss over (did you know Shirley Temple was an ambassador to Czechoslovakia later in life? I didn't) to the subtle language used as you are pulled further into Jude's madness, you barely notice the impending tidal wave as it draws up on you. You feel you are in Jude's world, and that is an extremely difficult task she accomplishes well.

It is a slower read, so I could call that a complaint. But if you go in thinking of it like a summer's day and realize that is how it is meant to be, then there is no problem (and as a shout out to Green Bean Teen Queen and others who complain about teens only reading classics in books - Merry, Jude's twin, reads Ender's Game within the first four pages. So rock on there). The story and the backdrop are wonderful and it shows one of the most honest portrayals of an average Mormon family I've seen in YA lit. And the characters are even better. For those of you who don't know, I am a twin, and so I am very hard to please with any "twin" story. Here is one of the very rare examples where I felt she got it almost exactly right. It is one of the most authentic feeling relationships I've read. And all the relationships felt that way, and I really liked that.

It is an incredible story that is meant to be drunk slowly and savored as you experience a new world in setting, but also in a state of mind.

The Final Word: A beautiful story not often told in a wonderful and unique backdrop. Like lemonade, it is meant to be savored and enjoyed.


Celtic Traveler said...

Wow! I'm Mormon and I didn't even know about this book!
I think I'll read it:)

Unknown said...

I think Mormons are definitely under-represented in YA lit. It sounds pretty interesting! And I just noticed your guidelines at the top of the page - are those new? I like!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

There is something so beautiful about the cover for this one! Very interesting review.

Heather Zundel said...

I would definitely recommend reading it. And no, those guidelines aren't knew, but since there were so many new followers, I thought I'd repost them. Maybe I'll leave them up at the top of every post. :) And yes, there is something very striking about the cover. It looks even better in real life.