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Born Again Paperback – September 5, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Like yin and yang, zealotry and doubt animate this intriguing debut by self-proclaimed "recovering born-again Christian" Kerney, featuring 14-year-old Melanie , a Pentecostal Revivalist (which, according to Mel, "means a lot of jumping up and down, speaking in tongues, and falling over, in that order") who wants to be a "Warrior for Christ"—but who also wants to attend academic summer camp. But the camp's required reading includes the verboten On the Origin of Species, and Mel, who is a Bible trivia quiz-kid champ, decides to read Darwin in order to disprove him. Alternately precocious and naïve (her discussion of Darwin is deep, yet her world is rocked by the revelation that her parents engaged in premarital sex), Mel is a terrific character: curious, smart and funny. The supporting cast—Mel's obsessive-compulsive, demon-seeing mother; her sexy pastor; and her occasionally repentant older sister who moves back into the house with her out-of-wedlock daughter to escape an abusive boyfriend—is less wonderful. And in the final third, when the family takes a trip to the underground caves of Kentucky and Mel seeks the scientific evidence for her Darwinian investigation, the story advances entirely inside Mel's head. A dark, fantastic finale earns some redemption. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—When the 14-year-old born-again narrator of this book was a baby, her pastor prophesied that she was destined to do great works for God. Now that Melanie is older, those "great works" appear to be discovering the truth about this pastor, her family, and herself. Melanie looks at her world and sees that there is something wrong with the picture. Her unmarried teen sister has a baby, her brother listens to devil music, and their mother sees demons walking through the house in the night. Melanie tries to decipher the signs God is sending her. She decides that disproving Charles Darwin's theory of evolution is her duty, and that this will help her save her best friend and then the rest of the world. As Melanie examines Darwin's work, however, she also traces the origin and evolution of her family and learns why her mother obsessively cleans and that her father is not the saint she thinks he is. Melanie finds herself moving away from what her pastor and her parents believe. Readers will appreciate how difficult it is for the protagonist to be understood, and to understand. This is a sympathetic story about the search for true faith in the modern world.—Will Marston, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: Harvest Books; 1 edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156031450
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156031455
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,056,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is nothing less than a really good read. It never gives the reader the luxury of simple judgement that so often pervades characterizations of Pentacostal faith. Mel is endearing, her naivity humorous and touching, her stand-off with Darwin an honest examination of the confusing time between the assumptions of childhood and the creeping adult world. Kerney's novel is a very human portrait of the evolution of curiosity and knowledge and the false steps, embarassments, and tragi-comedy of puberty.
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Melanie, the narrator, is growing up Pentecostal in a family with an ex-alcoholic father, an obsessive-compulsive mother, a promiscuous sister and a delinquent brother. She starts off as a "Jesus freak" but is being seduced away from religion by reading Darwin, and by disillusionment with the adults in her life. Although it is intelligent and full of humor it does not poke easy fun at fundamentalists. Every character is complex and three-dimensional, and Kerney even allows persuasive apologists for old-time religion to have their say.
The narrative is at such a crackling pace, and the conflicts are so compelling, and the intellectual issues so interesting, that it's easy to miss the author's superb mastery of unobtrusive scene setting. Where a lesser writer might have just said that there were cornfields and it was spring and the narrator was on a bus, Kerney has " I watched my own reflection wandering over the cornfields ... the pumpkin patch , which was now nothing but a huge square of dirt studded by posts."
It was interesting to compare with Jeanette Winterton's "Oranges are not the Only Fruit" about a girl growing up Pentecostal in England, and with Pearl Abraham's "The Romance Reader" about growing up Hasidic in Rockland County.
At one time the Pentecostals were distinguished by "speaking in tongues" although these days you even get charismatic Roman Catholics who do that, and American Pentecostals are distinguished more by snazzy churches and jazzy services and high pressure proselytism and literal Bible belief. The practice of speaking in tongues is based on the Second Chapter of Acts. I've always been intrigued by verse 15, where Peter explains that "these are not drunken as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day." I suppose charismatics have to be careful about what time they hold their services
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Format: Paperback
It would be easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to this book and assume it's anti-Christian, but what makes this book great is how it examines a young girl's thoughtful evaluation of her beliefs, which is in no way the same as disregarding them. I am not religious myself, but this book made me have a greater sympathy with those who are and who approach their beliefs in an intelligent way.
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Format: Paperback
The promotion for this book interested me, as I haven't seen the whole faith vs. Darwin thing handled in this type of book before (at least not in a way I wanted to read). Midway through the book, I realized that those blurbs were misleading - it's not Darwin that shakes up this little girl's faith, it's her disaster-filled family. By the end, I was skipping the journal entries about Darwin to stay with the story...the book is a great read, but not on the terms advertised.
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Format: Paperback
Starting this book, I wasn't sure what to expect. It deals with religion, so I thought it might be preachy. It talks about Darwin, so I was expecting some strong opinions on the subject--everyone has them. BORN AGAIN is Kelly Kerney's first novel, so I had no expectations as to the writing. In the quote on the back cover, Mel (the main character) talks about using the Bible to prove Darwin wrong. I, personally, am not a religious person and believe Darwin had the right idea, so I wasn't sure I'd be able to enjoy this book.

Wow, was I ever wrong. This book deals wonderfully with the admittedly heavy topics of both Darwinian science and religion (Mel belongs to an Evangelical Pentecostal family), without being at all preachy. Kerney isn't trying to convince the reader of anything; she is only showing one girl's search for the truth, and in that she raises some thought-provoking questions about science, religion, and life.

When the novel begins, Mel is an enthusiastic, religious, and smart teenager. She not only wants to do what's right in her own life, she wants to save everyone else, too. She believes every word from Pastor Lyle's mouth as if it came from God himself (which she believes it does). She would never dream of going against what the church and her parents teach her...Right?

When Mel receives a scholarship to academic summer camp, with that comes a reading list. She isn't sure that Pastor Lyle would approve of some of the books on it, like Wuthering Heights (Bantam Classics), but they're not on the "blasphemy list," so she reads most of the books.
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By Y. C. Chow on September 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have to say the first thing that caught my eye was the cover while i was browsing in the local bookstore. But after reading the first few pages, i was immediately hooked. It was so funny at some parts that i actually laughed out loud (got some unwanted attention from other customers in the bookstore :) ). The author clearly has a vast knowledge of both the bible and darwinian evolution, there are some deep inisghts into both int the book. Beside all the jokes, the transition of Mel from a deeply indoctrinated "Christ's soldier" to a skeptical evolutionist is just priceless!
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