By Kelly Kerney
(Mariner Books, Paperback, 9780156031455, 320pp.)
Publication Date: September 2006
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What happens when a Bible Quiz Champion takes on Darwin? Mel, a faith-filled Pentecostal, has the chance to escape Slow Rapids, Indiana, by attending academic summer camp. The only catch? She has to read forbidden tomes like The Origin of Species . So she forges the permission slip, promising God she’ll bring him a lost soul in exchange.
Mel conscientiously uses her Biblical expertise to argue Darwin’s theories, but meanwhile begins to realize that her parents, her pastor, and her church aren’t what she thought. She zealously battles demons every daylascivious heathens at school, the Frederick’s of Hollywood catalog, her backsliding brother and sister. But now, suddenly, she must also conquer the doubts of her own heart.
KELLY KERNEY received a BA from Bowdoin College and an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, where she was awarded the Nicholas Sparks postgraduate fellowship. Raised in a Pentecostal church, she is twenty-six years old and lives in Richmond, Virginia.
PRAISE FOR BORN AGAIN "Kelly Kerney is one of the freshest and most original new voices of her generation. Her debut novel is an amazing investigation of evangelical America's family values. This blue-collar tale of life's many travails by a golden voiced young author leaves an indelible impression on both the heart and the mind."
-- William O'Rourke, University of Notre Dame professor and Chicago Sun-Times columnist
"Kelly Kerney's smart first novel takes on evolution, fundamentalism, and one very appealing girl caught between them. Melanie really is born again, and her readers will find themselves transformed too."--Valerie Sayers, author of Brain Fever and Due East
"Entertaining. From the first chapter of her novel, Kerney woos us with tongue-in-cheek humor. As an adolescent first-person protagonist, Mel is extremely likable. Kerney''s descriptions of the world as seen and experienced by a teenage girl often seem spot-on (after carefully studying a Frederick''s of Hollywood catalog, Mel and Beth cut their underwear into thongs). Also particularly fine is Kerney''s portrayal of Mel''s burgeoning sexuality. She believably depicts her preoccupation with sex and the hormones raging within her without Mel ever seeming aware of it. Mel thinks about her classmates having sex, her parents having sex, her sister having sex -- even the abstinence rally leads to thinking about her beloved Pastor Lyle having (in his words) "awesome" sex with his wife. Kerney even gently edges this theme beyond Mel herself, showing in a scene of exorcism charged with brutal sexuality how religion is, at times, used to sublimate sexual passion.Throughout, Kerney successfully reveals the manifold contradictions and inconsistencies inherent in adult life. Ironically, the contradictions that at first seem so glaring -- those between Darwin and the Bible -- are easily addressed by Mel with suitable Bible verses and theories about "God-years," allowing the two to coexist peacefully. And though the novel''s witty humor keeps it from turning into either a rant or a sermon, it also keeps it firmly on the lighter side -- expect no portentous exploration of dealing with challenges to religious faith here. Instead "Born Again" is a humorous portrait of an adolescent awakening from the blind faith of childhood and learning to see, think and believe with adult awareness." -- San Francisco Chronicle
"[Mel] is charmingly real and sympathetic. Grade: B."
"Charming and insightful."
"Like yin and yang, zealotry and doubt ainmate this intriguing debut. Mel is a terrific character: curious, smart, and funny."
"BORN AGAIN is a harrowing and frequently hila