Friday, July 7, 2017

Cheesus Was Here by J.C. Davis, 2017

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Sixteen-year-old Delaney Delgado knows miracles aren’t real—if they were, her kid sister wouldn’t be dead. So when the image of baby Jesus appears on a Babybel cheese wheel, she’s not buying the idea that God’s got a dairy obsession. Soon, religious signs begin turning up all over Del’s hometown, tiny Clemency, Texas. Overnight, news vans fill the streets and religious pilgrims start searching for God in the discount aisle of the grocery store.

Hell-bent on proving the so-called miracles are fake, Del convinces her best friend, Gabe, to help her find the truth. While Gabe’s willing to play detective, as a preacher’s son he’s more interested in finding evidence that supports the miracles. But when the whole town becomes caught up in religious fervor and even the late-night talk show hosts have stopped laughing and started to believe, finding the truth might cause more trouble than Del can handle. This novel is neither pro nor anti-religion, and will appeal to fans of contemporary YA novels that explore deep themes with an element of humor. The voice and characters are funny, strong, and full of heart. This is a book for anyone who loved
(272 pages)

I waffled on this one.

I almost didn't agree to review Cheesus Was Here because I worried it would be offensive to me as a Christian. The teaser promised it was "neither pro nor anti-religion," though, so my curiosity won out and I got the book. I agree that it doesn't wind up siding firmly with one side of the argument of the other, though there are some interesting points made along the way. In many ways, I almost thought it was a little biased toward religion.

Don't get me wrong–as I said, I'm a Christian myself. But I find it rather disturbing that the entire town of Clemency believes in the miracles except for Delaney, and that everyone (including characters who are considered by the author to be voices of reason!) constantly tells Delaney that her only reason for trying to disprove the miracles is some sort of bitter, slightly immature vendetta against God for her sister's death.

I mean, I don't know about you, but if people started worshipping a hunk of Babybel cheese I'd definitely be skeptical and start investigating. You can be religious without being gullible, and you can roll your eyes at some baby-shaped cheese just because you think it's stupid (and not because you're angry at the universe). Granted, Del's particular reasoning may have had something to do with her sister's death, too, but it would have been good to see some other viewpoints.

Besides that, though, I thought the book's take on everything was really good. The crazed way people start worshipping the hunk of cheese (and then later a window and a board that appear to be similarly marked by God) is frustrating but realistic, and Del's emotional turmoil and cynicism after her sister's death by cancer the year before rings crushingly true. There's a little bit of language and some references to mature topics (including sex and homosexuality), but nothing horrible to turn people away.

Basically, Cheesus Was Here is a really interesting book that raises some fascinating questions about religion and death and mourning. I really enjoyed it, much more than I thought I would.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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