12 June 2014

Review: Starbird Murphy and the World Outside

Starbird Murphy and the World Outside
Starbird Murphy and the World Outside by Karen Finneyfrock

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I can't remember it at this point, but I distinctly remember reading a YA or middle grade book about a cult a number of years ago. Was it good? I'm not sure, but it wasn't good enough for me to remember the title, apparently.

Anyway, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside is about a cult. Specifically, a more hippie-ish spiritual communal cult that Starbird has grown up in. She receives her "calling," and it is to help run the Free Family's restaurant in Seattle. This means venturing off the group's farm for the first time, enrolling in a public school, and so on.

This book is really brilliant in a lot of ways. I started out side-eyeing it a bit because, as an adult reader, it was obvious almost from the very start that the Free Family was a bonafide cult and not some sort of futurist organization created solely for the book. The slow burn of the group's reveal ends up being a significant plus for the book as a whole, as it allows us a better chance to understand Starbird, what she knows, and how she ultimately has to interact with the world that she has been shielded from the whole time.

By the time everything comes together, I was entirely invested and couldn't put the book down even if I wanted to. It's a really solid way to end it, it's sophisticated without being condescending, and it ends up being a great way to do the "coming of age" story as well as handling the cult topic in a mature, reasonable way without introducing (too much) danger into the system. That many cults are not Heaven's Gate, "drink the Kool Aid" type organizations often get lost in the shuffle, and the way everything pans out with this specific story is an absolute plus.

Highly, highly recommended. Definitely one of the better books I've read in the young adult field as of late, and could be a contender for one of the best YA books of the year period.

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