My morbid fascination with cults once again got the best of me, this time leading me into the YA genre. How much I enjoyed it…well that surprised even me. Oh my heart, this book evokes such feelings and interest in me, and I honestly don’t know if I can even do it justice.
I can hear them crying and shrieking for their parents, and my heart breaks for them, but they’re alive, they’re still alive, and that’s all that matters, that’s the only thing that matters as the world burns.
The story is told in terms of “Before” and “After” the fire. “Before” follows Moonbeam, a young girl who has grown up within the confines of a fence as a member of the Lord’s Legion, basically a cult controlled by Father John. “After,” Moonbeam has survived “the fire,” and is in a facility meeting with Dr. Hernandez and Agent Carlyle. Every ounce of her being is fighting the interactions, knowing that Father John would not approve of her speaking with the Outsiders, but over time she begins to accept, and even trust, the Outsiders.
As stated in the author’s note, the story draws loosely from a real life cult with a fiery end, the Branch Davidian religious sect, with a special focus on not only how initially pure faith could be twisted and skewed but also how the survivors of these unspeakable events could come to terms with their entire lives being ripped out from underneath them – leaving them to determine truth and reality from scratch. The author did so beautifully, writing a gritty, poignant, yet resilient story. Many moments were honestly shocking to me, much darker than I would have expected from YA, but I truly believe that he did right by the characters and the story that he told.
Moonbeam was such a strong, witty, vulnerable protagonist that handled such unbelievable circumstances with poise and dignity that not many would be able to achieve. She was so exceptionally observant that you could see the world around her, both Before the fire within the Lord’s Legion and in her new life After the fire. My heart would continuously break for her as she clearly dealt with survivors guilt as well as shouldering a secret that she felt no one could know. Although the stories weren’t easy to read, often being extremely graphic or disturbing (TW: abuse and suicide), it was so captivating and heart wrenching.
I honestly can’t decide if this is a 4.5 or 5 star read, solely because of the ending. To be totally honest, my opinion changes from minute to minute. At times, it’s a bit too clean and convenient for the gritty, raw story; other times it is exactly what I needed it to be.
Thank you so much to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing my review copy. It’s my pleasure to share my honest thoughts and opinions with our readers. Get your own copy here!