Book Review: The Evolution of Ethan Poe by Robin Reardon

Ethan Poe is an outlier. He doesn’t feel he fits in with any groups at his school, partly because of his Goth appearance (inspired by his distant relative Edgar Allan), partly because he’s gay. The only person that knows the latter though is his friend Jorja, a fellow outlier, and one who is constantly praying that Ethan will stop being gay. As Jorja becomes even more intense about her religion, Ethan’s brother Kyle too seems caught up in a religious fever, and in his case, it is becoming disturbing indeed.

If that’s not complicated enough for a sixteen-year-old whose parents are recently separated, life takes an interesting turn in the person of Max Modine, beautiful and mysterious, and apparently as attracted to Ethan as Ethan is to him.

Ethan, his family, his friends, and Max soon find themselves caught up in a turmoil that is dividing their small town: the debate over whether or not to include Intelligent Design into science classrooms. Although Ethan doesn’t want to become involved, preferring instead to keep his outlier status, he finds that he has to make some choices and take a stand. After all, the religious groups using blind biblical faith to justify their ID are the same groups who would condemn being gay, and as his relationship with Max intensifies, Ethan knows that there’s nothing unnatural about what they are feeling.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love this Robin Reardon book as much as all the rest, but as a character, Ethan gets under my skin. He’s a teenager, I know, so his centre-of-the-world oblivious-to-everyone-else my-feelings-matter-more-than-anyone-else attitude shouldn’t frustrate me like it does. As in life though, that self-centeredness is tempered by the experiences he undergoes, as he grows and begins to realize that other people have their own thoughts, their own feelings, and their own pain.

It’s a rich book, filled with flawed characters that fail and succeed, and it forces you to look at some big issues: the pros and cons of the pack mentality, what it means to have religious freedom, and where lines must be drawn to protect it, the importance of not being so caught up in our own “stuff” that we become blind to what’s going on around us.

All in all, another hit from Robin Reardon!

Submitted By: Rob B. Follow him on Twitter @robbrowatzke

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