This has been such a big buzz book this year, and I was excited to read it. But I came away after finishing it with some very mixed feelings. First things first: The book jacket has a plot summary on it that is terribly misleading. It says that a character named Phoebe gets drawn into a religious cult and eventually aids in bombing abortion clinics, then disappears, and her boyfriend Will struggles to find her. That sounds like a great book, but basically that describes the last 25 pages.
The rest of the book is the history of Phoebe and Will, how they meet in college, how they're each scarred by family problems (she feels responsible for her mother's death, he has a mother who is mentally ill and has been abandoned by his father). He spent many years as an evangelical Christian before losing faith, she had no faith until she becomes involved with the enigmatic John Leal.
There's still a lot to appreciate here, especially the scenes where Will talks about losing his faith, and why faith had been important to him in the first place. The author also does a great job of detailing Phoebe's increasing involvement with Leal's group.
But here's the thing. Kwon can write, no question, but once again (yes, I know this is a frequent tangent for me), we have an attractive young woman who has possibly been rushed to publication. The book is uneven. There are some very odd narrative choices that don't hold up under scrutiny, one of them being having John Leal give short speeches that add very little to the book itself. We don't really need to hear from him; this is Phoebe's and Will's stories. Also, Phoebe's sections are always being told to someone, and it's not clear who that is until the end, something that was distracting and annoying.
I noticed in the acknowledgements at the end that Kwon thanked an enormous--I mean pages-long--group of writers for helping her. I have to wonder if having that many people involved in your book is a good idea. If you're at the point of having dozens and dozens of people comment on it, when you do you lose what made it special as you try to accommodate so many other opinions?
Still, I'll look for her next book. But can't say I loved this one.