The Blurb On The Back:
Her life has changed and no one’s told her the new rules.
So she’ll just have to make up her own …
Eighteen months ago, seventeen-year-old Rose and thirteen-year-old Rudder escaped a strict religious sect with their mum.
While Rudder gorges on once-taboo Harry Potters, Rose swaps ankle skirts for Japanese-cute fairy dress and her new boyfriend, Kye. Kye, who she wants with all her being. But there’s loads of stuff that Rose has no idea how to handle – it’s normal for girls to let their boyfriends take naked pictures of them, right?
When Rudder accidentally sets a devastating chain of events in action, Rose must decide whether to sacrifice everything and go back to the life she hates, in order to save the people she loves.
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The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
17-year-old Rose and her 13-year-old brother Rudder spent their whole lives with their parents in an extreme Christian sect called God’s Pilgrims where the rules were made by a small group of men and women were forced to cover their bodies. But that all changed 18 months ago when Rose, Rudder and their mother were excised (cast out) after an incident with Rudder left him with severe burning to his hands and drew the attention of the police, social services and worse, the national press, to the sect.
Now the three of them live in a flat above a kebab shop and Rose’s mother works zero hour, low-paid jobs to pay the rent. Rose has decided to fully embrace life outside the cult, dressing in clothes inspired by Japanese anime, wearing make-up and getting a boyfriend, Kye, who she is determined to “beget immodestly” with – viewing it all as a necessary part of her decommissioning process. Rudder, however, is having a tougher time. On the one hand he has access to the Harry Potter books that got him into trouble with the Pilgrims but he feels out of place in the modern world (in part because he’s bullied by Kye’s younger sister Bella) and he misses his father who has stayed with the Pilgrims and taken a new wife, Lily-Beth.
Then Rudder is sent a photo that he definitely shouldn’t have. Confused he looks for guidance from his mum and Rose and, inadvertently, sets off a chain of events that threatens the lives that Rose and her mum are trying so hard to carve out for themselves …
Patrice Lawrence’s contemporary YA novel is a subtle look at the pressures of modern teen life that examines sexism, different means of coercion and control and the meaning of freedom. Lawrence is particularly good in her sly critique of toxic Christianity and in the double standards that women are held to in comparison to men and although the pace did drag slightly in places, I cared a great deal about the characters and what happens to them.
Lawrence is great at portraying the dislocation that Rudder and Rose each feel at being among the “worldly wise” and their contrasting reactions are very believable. Rose’s lists of things that she wants to do to achieve “deprogramming” are poignant and betray her vulnerability and I liked how her reaction was complete rebellion to the Pilgrims’ rules, most notably through her dress and make-up. I didn’t believe so much in her relationship with Kye because they don’t get a lot of on-page time together and he’s mostly seen through her eyes in terms of what a relationship with him represents to her. However, I equally think that this is intentional on Lawrence’s part because Rose is more interested in having a relationship and what you should do in one than in thinking about who she is with.
Similarly Rudder’s struggles with his belief in God and how he’s been left shaken by losing everything he’s ever known are sensitively drawn and I completely believed in his naivety and how his desperate desires for both acceptance and to do the right thing (as he sees it) lead to so much trouble. I wished that there had been more interaction between him and Bella because I think it would have rooted one of the plot points more and similarly, I would have enjoyed reading of his experiences with the drama group in terms of the effect on his religious beliefs (although the scenes that are in the book are very good and made me chuckle).
Lawrence’s depiction of their mother’s struggle to keep the family afloat with zero hour contract jobs is subtle and forms a pointed contrast with the twenty pound notes that the children’s father can drop at any time. The fact that she doesn’t belabour the point of a man who chooses to stay with the cult where he is looked after and viewed as a potential leader rather than his own wife and children makes it even more pointed as does what happens to him in the last quarter of the book. In fact, Lawrence’s whole depiction of the sect and how people within it maintain their power at the expense of others is very well done although I do think that the grandmother character gets off far too lightly in the end.
There’s an underlying critique of misogyny and the dangers of setting within the book but Lawrence never preaches to the reader, instead leaving it to them to think for themselves. I thought that the pacing got bogged down in some spots (notably after the first half where I think more dramatic tension between Rose and her grandmother would have helped) and I did need a bigger confrontation between the mother and father given how events unfold. Those minor criticisms aside though, I thought this was an intelligent, moving read and I cared about what happened to the characters, which is the mark of a master storyteller.
ROSE, INTERRUPTED was released in the United Kingdom on 25th July 2019. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.