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Chaste Paperback – November 22, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
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About the Author
Angela Felsted is a Northern Virginia native who is overly fond of Olive Garden and Red Lobster. She grew up in a faithful Mormon home with three brothers and one sister where she learned to stand up for herself by tickling her attackers until they broke out into laughing fits. Her work has appeared in issue fifteen of Drown in Your Own Fears, Chanterelle's Notebook and Vine Leaves Literary Journal. Her chapbook, Cleave, was published by finishing line press in 2012.
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That said, I wasn't sure how I would react to "Chaste," a book I was hoping to recommend to my young adult daughters. Happily, I can do so wholeheartedly because I was immediately caught up in the story of Kat and Quinn. Kat absolutely broke my heart; Her pain showed so clearly despite her cynical and hard image and the careful cultivation of her bad reputation. She so clearly wanted to believe once again in the world where right and wrong are clearly defined and doing the right thing always brings the right results. The tragey of her brother's death and the impact it has had on her family destroyed that perfect world forever.
On the other hand, Quinn seems to still be living in that perfect world. He is accomplished, decent and seems to have a happy family life. But Quinn, of course, is wrestling with his own demons and is going through his own journey from what seemed an idyllic childhood into the more complicated reality of adulthood. That these two might be able to help each other survive these journeys seems unlikely at first but inevitable before long.
One thing I would have liked to understand more is how Quinn held up under the incredible pressures he faced. It was clear from the narrative that Mormon youth are held to extremely high standards of both behavior and accomplishment. Add to that the extreme challenges in Quinn's personal life and it's a wonder he didn't have a breakdown of sorts. I was curious about the family and religious culture that would produce such an admirable young man but also one who seemed almost disallowed to attend to his own needs.
"Chaste" touched me in a way I did not expect. My tenderness toward Kat is probably an outgrowth of my own maturity and understanding that things do not always go as they should. It's sad that she had to learn this truth so early. My teenaged self would have been quite judgemental of her; now I want to take her in my arms and let her know it's okay, that all her experiences can work for her good if she will let them. Damn, I'm crying as I'm writing this - that is the effect Kat had on my throughout this story. That empathy she inspires makes "Chaste" an excellent book to read with teenagers. Maybe after reading about Kat and Quinn they will be a little more circumspect in forming opinions of their peers and a little more understanding when someone doesn't fit the mold they've been assigned by high school society.
The author gives us a "good boy" Quinn, who struggles to discern where his Mormon faith is genuinely calling him to live selflessly, and how much his family manipulates him, using that faith as a weapon to beat him into submission. When he collides with a preacher's-kid-gone-wild, Kat, sparks fly--and it's not simply the usual opposites-attract trope at play here.
Kat acts out because her dead brother's ghost haunts her home, rendering her invisible to her parents. The pastor-dad's withdrawal is sadly all too common in Christian ministry. It's less painful to pour energy into the congregation than one's crumbling family.
So while on the surface, Quinn is Mr. Clean-cut Nice Guy and Kat is the vamp-style mean girl, underneath they're both victims of families who live their faith hypocritically, stuck in the shadow of an older sibling's tragedy. What begins as another of Kat's ploys to become less invisible becomes an eye-opening experience for both characters.
Lots of layers here. Complex characterization with realistic tension and stakes kept me turning pages.
This book got at many of the cultural norms in a mormon household from the clean home filled with music and "good books," to how time is spent.
I'm pretty sure the physics teacher would not have a job in the Virginia I know (which also would not let a girl wear belly button-baring shirts), but the Physics classroom episodes were my favorite. I love all the sexual tension that happened there.
I also think this book does an incredible job highlighting the danger of possessive, controlling relationships that young adults will do well to recognize and steer clear of.
This is a wonderful read, and a day later, I'm thinking a lot about Kat and Quinn... And Amy too.
It does get heated at moments, so I have some friends who like clean romance that I'm not sure would like this, but I find it to be completely appropriate with a valuable message.