Title: Keep Sweet
Author: Michele Dominguez Greene
Release Date: March 9, 2012
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, Contemporary
Page Count: 215
Alva Jane has never questioned her parents, never questioned her faith, never questioned her future. She is content with the strict rules that define her life in Pineridge, the walled community where she lives with her father, his seven wives, and her twenty-eight siblings. This is the only world Alva has ever known, and she has never thought to challenge it. But everything changes when Alva is caught giving her long-time crush an innocent first kiss. Beaten, scorned, and now facing a forced marriage to a violent, fifty-year-old man, Alva suddenly realizes how much she has to lose—and how impossible it will be to escape. (summary from amazon)
I had a hard time deciding between 2 and 3 owls for Keep Sweet. I’ve read many similar stories, so the plot wasn’t new to me, and while I mostly enjoyed the book while reading, I kept having the feeling that it’s been done before, and done better. So I went with 2 owls.
As I’ve said, I’ve read a lot of similar books. For some reason, I find the FLDS community fascinating. Maybe it’s me wondering how something like it could still exist. I’m not sure. Anyway, I’ve read Escape by Carolyn Jessop, Stolen Innocence by Elissa Wall, and Church of Lies by Flora Jessop. I recommend all of those, all memoirs. On the fiction side, I’ve read The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff and Hidden Wives by Claire Avery. So, I have some experience in this “genre.”
My big problem is with Alva Jane, the main character. For a girl that never went to public school, and whose teacher was a thirteen-year-old school dropout, Alva Jane’s voice is way too mature. I could have believed her knowledge more if she’d had forbidden books or something, but at the start of Keep Sweet, Alva Jane is a perfect member of the community.
I also thought Alva Jane’s questioning her faith and beliefs came a bit too swiftly. Yes, I know she experiences some very violent events during the book, but when contrasted with her mother’s zeal, and Alva Jane wishing she was just like her, it felt off to me for her to change so quickly. Maybe if the book had been longer, and Alva Jane’s character had more room for development, it would have worked for me.
Along with the short length of the book, the ending is way too rushed. Keep Sweet moves very quickly from Point A to Point B to Point C.
However, there are some things in Keep Sweet that I liked. One is Brenda, an outsider joining the community, which you don’t often see. The conversations between Alva Jane and Brenda are a good way to see the differences between the Pineridge (fictional FLDS community) and modern life. Another thing is that the author wasn’t scared to hurt her characters. Alva Jane has some very bad things happen to her, which may make the book unsuitable for younger readers.
I’d recommend Keep Sweet only if you haven’t read other books based on the FLDS.
Rating: 2 owls
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