The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes | Review

Posted June 6, 2015 by Tara in Review /// 2 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes | ReviewThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Series: standalone
Published by DIAL (CHILDREN), Penguin on June 9th 2015
Genres: Religious, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Reading Challenges: 2015 80 Book Challenge
Source: ARC from NetGalley
Buy on Amazon

With a harrowing poetic voice, this contemporary page-turner is perfect for fans of Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak, Julie Berry's All The Truth That's in Me, and the works of Ellen Hopkins.
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.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow By is a hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in oneself.


My Review



I was so excited to read The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly because it just sounded like something right up my alley. Cults? Chopping off hands? Yes and YES. However, even with my high expectations I was still blown away by this novel.

I can say, without a doubt, that this novel won me over because it did not sugar coat anything. I find that YA novels tend to avoid actually having bad things happen to protagonists. For example, if a protagonist were to find out that she was going to get her hands cut off, she would find some way to escape and avoid that fate. But not with this novel! Minnow actually goes through a lot of bad things, which she recounts in her flashbacks, and those events are what really made me feel for her and understand her hatred of the cult that her parents dragged her into at the age of five.

The novel is told through flashbacks to Minnow’s time in the cult, but also through her narration of her experience after escape from the cult in the present day. Minnow has been placed in a juvenile detention after she assaults a man under a bridge, and this is such an interesting site for her to experience her reintroduction to the “real” world. These parts of the novel almost felt like an episode of Orange is the New Black, while he flashback sections felt like some of the worst parts of life on the compound in Big Love. 

It is also notable that I really appreciated the female friendship in this novel. In her detention center, Minnow’s cell mate is a tough-talking girl named Angel. Angel will be in prison for a very long time, and their relationship could have easily been one of anger and resentment. However, the friendship felt very much like the delightfully real, honest, and complex friendship of Cath and Reagan in Fangirl. I find good female friendships, especially ones with honesty and communication, to be so rare in YA.

I really don’t know what else to say about this book. Five star reads are sometimes hard to review because I just want to gush and glow and squeal all over the page, but I can honestly say that I loved every second of this novel and cannot name any major flaws with the story. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any flaws (there undoubtably are), but just that I was so focused on the enjoyment of the story that I did not find any glaring faults in the writing. That’s quite rare, so I am always thrilled to find novels that I love on the level that I loved The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly!


Though this novel is not for the faint of heart, it is a read that I recommend to anyone who likes darker fiction. The book is well-written, the story is engrossing, and the characters are delightfully complex. This is a stunning debut novel, and I look forward to reading more from Stephanie Oakes — and maybe watch her receive some ALA awards (Morris contender, possibly?) in January.

About Stephanie Oakes

Stephanie Oakes is a teacher and YA author from Washington State. Her debut novel, THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY (Dial/Penguin, June 9, 2015), about a girl who escapes from a religious commune only to find herself at the center of a murder investigation, is based on the Grimm fairy tale, "The Handless Maiden."

THE ARSONIST, her second YA mystery through Dial/Penguin, is scheduled for publication in fall 2016.


Win (1) signed finished copy of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes, plus some YA swag (US Only)

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Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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