Heretics Anonymous

Heretics Anonymous

Michael is an atheist. So as he walks through the doors at St. Clare’s—a strict Catholic school—sporting a plaid tie, things can’t get much worse. His dad has just made the family move again, and Michael needs a friend. When a girl challenges their teacher in class, Michael thinks he might have found one, and a fellow nonbeliever at that. Only this girl, Lucy, is not just...

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Title:Heretics Anonymous
Author:Katie Henry
Rating:
Edition Language:English

Heretics Anonymous Reviews

  • Emma Giordano

    Heretics Anonymous

    6/5 Stars.

    is a fascinating and humorous examination of faith and tolerance. This novel has quickly become an all-time favorite of mine.

    Check out my non-spoiler video review!:

    CW: slut shaming, homophobia (both challenged in text), various jokes about religion

    The humor in this book is UNREAL. I was crying of laughter almost from the first page. I feel that young adult books have been recently focusing on contemporary novels featuring d

    Heretics Anonymous

    6/5 Stars.

    is a fascinating and humorous examination of faith and tolerance. This novel has quickly become an all-time favorite of mine.

    Check out my non-spoiler video review!:

    CW: slut shaming, homophobia (both challenged in text), various jokes about religion

    The humor in this book is UNREAL. I was crying of laughter almost from the first page. I feel that young adult books have been recently focusing on contemporary novels featuring dark and serious topics, so it was a breath of fresh air to read something so laughable! Michael’s sarcastic narration was the perfect fit for this story and I feel it is one of the most compelling aspects of the novel.

    I’m smitten with the characters in this novel. Following an atheist, a Colombian catholic, a gay jew, a pagan, and a unitarian (who loves to break the dress code), Michael, Lucy, Avi, Eden, and Max are a flawless band of misfits to stir up some much needed discussion in their conservative school. Michael is wonderfully flawed; He’s rash and obnoxious but still loveable and learning how to be a better person. Lucy has endless layers in the way she proudly presents herself as an intelligent feminist, has to take on additional responsibilities at home, and remains loyal to her faith while also challenging the unjust parts of it. Avi is snarky and confrontational in the best way. Out of all the characters, Eden and Max are the least developed, but they remain enjoyable and valuable participants of the story. I love the dynamic of these friends. They act (mostly – I’m looking at you, Michael) in solidarity but are still able to disagree and challenge the beliefs and motivations of one another. It is a very equal, healthy relationship between them all and such a charming story.

    follows quite religious themes without infringing on the freedom of it’s characters AND readers. The main message of this story is

    . Despite their differences, these friends from all different forms of belief can come together for one purpose and achieve it. There is no “conversion” story. There is no push to follow one belief system. It is about the beauty of coexisting with one another and following what you personally believe in.

    I would recommend

    to absolutely anyone. Whether you want to explore different perspectives of organized religion. Whether you want a story following a strong friendship. Or you just want a reason to laugh. I would highly recommend picking up this immensely unique debut and observing how it changes you.

  • destiny ♎ [howling libraries]

    First of all, I’ll preface this review by saying I think that I get to look at this one from a pretty unique angle. I was raised in an extremely religious and strict Christian household, and though it wasn’t Catholicism, there was SO MUCH in this book that I could relate to 100% from my childhood. On the other hand, I don’t follow an organized religion at all now (if anything, I’d say I’m somewhere along the lines of pagan and pantheist), but my journey to get here took me through several years

    First of all, I’ll preface this review by saying I think that I get to look at this one from a pretty unique angle. I was raised in an extremely religious and strict Christian household, and though it wasn’t Catholicism, there was SO MUCH in this book that I could relate to 100% from my childhood. On the other hand, I don’t follow an organized religion at all now (if anything, I’d say I’m somewhere along the lines of pagan and pantheist), but my journey to get here took me through several years of atheism that looked remarkably similar to Michael’s various thought processes. Basically, my point is:

    and I can acknowledge that long enough to say that, if you are committed to an Abrahamic religion and don’t enjoy critiques of said religious, this is probably one that you would want to steer clear of.

    While the book never entirely vilifies any one specific religion, there is a

    of criticism of Christianity and the Bible’s contents. The narrator points out a lot of flaws in the theology, and more than anything, a tremendous amount of hypocrisy in the school’s administration that, while not necessarily exclusive to religious private schools, is certainly to be blamed in this scenario on the specific beliefs of the people in charge at St. Clare.

    That said, I’d also like to inform you that something I appreciated about the story is the fact that it never feels like a

    This book is not here to convert you to or away from any particular set of beliefs, but to show you the flaws

    qualities to many. With such a diverse cast of characters, I felt that we were offered a lovely number of views, between Lucy’s feminist take on Catholicism, Eden’s paganism (Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheists is the exact label), Max’s Unitarianism, or Avi’s experience as a gay Jewish boy. Time and care are taken to tell us a little bit about each of these paths, and even to clear up misconceptions a few times (especially about Eden’s beliefs and rituals).

    (ETA: I forgot to mention, but Lucy is Columbian and Max is Korean!)

    As someone who was raised in a Christian home, there were so many moments that had me either laughing out loud or cringing from secondhand embarrassment, and you can take that as you will. We see depictions of many common problems in Christian youth settings, such as slut-shaming girls for not waiting until marriage to have sex, removing a woman’s right to consent and bodily autonomy regarding her clothing (such as a uniform inspection scene that was actually a bit triggering for me), firing teachers for not following “morality clauses”, public shaming of children as punishment, and mischaracterizing individuals from other religions in sometimes incredibly harmful ways.

    There’s even a scene in which the characters discuss how colonialism is to blame for the wide reaches of Catholicism/Christianity in many countries, and that’s a topic that is not touched upon

    enough in

    setting, so I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of how important it is to accept and address this fact.

    All of that aside, there’s more to this story than just a commentary on religion and hypocrisy; there’s also an underlying story of family, friendship, knowing when to follow and when to break rules, and learning how to show forgiveness and empathy for our fellow human beings. We’re shown that there is no “one size fits all” answer, and that religion, despite its flaws, can be a tremendous comfort for many individuals and that’s perfectly acceptable.

    The

    legitimate complaint I have about this book is the romance, which felt weak and lacking to me most of the time. First of all, with Lucy’s various ideals and goals in life, the relationship didn’t feel to me as though it had the chance for a very solid foundation. Second, I just couldn’t connect to the forming romance enough to root for them or to care much about whether or not they ended up together. Because of this, I’d say this is more of a 4.5/5 rating, but it’s such an important and underrepresented subject matter that it deserves the hype.

    You can find this review and more on my

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  • Elyse Walters

    Audiobook narrated by Michael Crouch

    Every once in a while I listen to a voice that I think is so darn good I have to look up the person. Michael Crouch was terrific AS WAS THIS BOOK!

    A few words about Michael Crouch first ( he is the narrator for the character named Michael, too, in “Heretics Anonymous”).

    Michael Crouch -specializes in narration that requires youthful sound - (pre-teens to early 30s) — predominately literary fiction, young adult, and middle school. Boy....the guy is a natural!!!

    Audiobook narrated by Michael Crouch

    Every once in a while I listen to a voice that I think is so darn good I have to look up the person. Michael Crouch was terrific AS WAS THIS BOOK!

    A few words about Michael Crouch first ( he is the narrator for the character named Michael, too, in “Heretics Anonymous”).

    Michael Crouch -specializes in narration that requires youthful sound - (pre-teens to early 30s) — predominately literary fiction, young adult, and middle school. Boy....the guy is a natural!!!!!

    I just learned that Crouch is also the voice narrator for Patrick Ness’s new young adult book,

    “Release”,.... so now I know which format I’d like to choose.

    His voice goes right to your soul.....and I look forward to hearing him read again.

    ABOUT THE BOOK...( my thoughts)... LOVED IT! I’m a person who watched “The Breakfast Club” a half dozen times....(my kids loved it - their friends- who didn’t like it?)....

    Well, if they make a movie of “Heretics Anonymous”.....I’m guessing it will be a great hit with both teens and adults

    This story takes place - primarily at Saint Clares’s Private Catholic High school. The school has many strict policies.

    Each of the five kids we connect with - follow in this story each come from varied backgrounds. Heretics Anonymous is kinda a support group - a club for people who think a little different. “ people who have beliefs, but not the right kind”.

    Or..... “ they might believe in God, yet some of the other beliefs might not match up”.

    At their meetings they discuss unfair policies at the school knowing that they can’t change them... but discussing topics such as sexual beliefs- religious beliefs - family life - personal issues - church rules....and the hypocrisy of many of the staff officials. In time — this group takes more action against the school....

    think of Breaking and entering......

    School begins to change - and they begin to change.....

    Michael is new to the school - the new member —( he has had to move 4 times with his family and we learned that he doesn’t or hasn’t in the past made friends easy).

    He’s also an atheist. He’s so happy just to be included in a group - have friends - with a crush on Lucy to boot- he’s happy to join the club). Michael is also narrating this story.

    Lucy is a Catholic...bright - also a feminist who has put her teachers to the test a few times with her sharp mind.

    Avi is Jewish - semi observant -and Gay

    Eden - is pagan

    Max - the leading dress code delinquent of the group - doesn’t care about following the dress code: ( think vampire type Cloaks).

    I don’t want to spoil this story — but it’s really very intelligent - very creative- important messages - very humorous - very thought-provoking - with WONDERFUL CHARACTERS ....and very heartwarming enjoyable!

    This is an outstanding debut novel by Katie Henry. I look forward to her next book.

  • C.G. Drews

    It's such a call-out to hypocrisy, mixed in with messy and loveable characters and enough weird and gruesome facts about history and saints to make me think fondly of my childhood of reading those Horrible History books. I read so, so many of them. What a throwback.

    It's set in a Catholic school + Michael is an atheist + there's Jewish and Wiccan characters featured + and it ver

    It's such a call-out to hypocrisy, mixed in with messy and loveable characters and enough weird and gruesome facts about history and saints to make me think fondly of my childhood of reading those Horrible History books. I read so, so many of them. What a throwback.

    It's set in a Catholic school + Michael is an atheist + there's Jewish and Wiccan characters featured + and it very deeply talks about theology. Usually I avoid religion-centric books because I grew up in a very conservative church and I'm still

    at all the things I was told to believe as a kid. So I like books that (a) point out hypocrisy, (b) but also take time to show multiple sides and how the bad parts of religion aren't ALL religion. Despite the protagonist being atheist, I didn't think it was anti-God. More anti-people-being-hurt-by-cruel-old-rules and a challenge to the church to listen and do better.

    Michael is someone you want to whack over the head at time for all his bad decisions, but I also understood him. I really loved his voice and narration! (His dad = dROVE mE VErY to anGRY. I do not forgive him.)

    LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH. They were so dimensional in so few chapters! Also I totally headcanon that Max is autistic. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Makes me happy lemme be. I love how they each had a different religion but were in a Catholic school. Lucy was a very intense Catholic still and acknowledged the church's failings but still loved it as her home. And Avi is this smol angry Jewish gay kid and annoyingly immature at times, but I still liked him a lot.

    So much!! And there were so many but they all felt unique and different and the diversity was A+.

    I got lost a few times but then that's probably on me, not the book, because while I learned a lot of this stuff in school, I retain less than a kettle with a hole in it.

    It was cathartic for me to read, plus just overall funning and endearing. It had a ship that was totally adorable if bumpy, and it had some hot-headed dubious moments of BAD DECISIONS which made me unable to put the book down at all for like, um, 2hrs. Everyone grows and changed so much too! Like look at these little characters, all growin' up and having arcs. Love them. Love it.

    So so glad I splurged and gifted this to myself as a congratulations for existing. The bar is low for gifting myself books. I do not mind.

    (Also shout out to the COVER! It makes me realise I can, indeed, cook toast much better than I thought I could.)

  • Larry H

    Michael has tried to stay positive. But after his family moves for the fourth time in 10 years—and a month and a half into his junior year of high school, no less—he's starting to lose himself. Especially this time, when his parents have enrolled him at St. Clare's, a prestigious Catholic prep school. Because Michael, you see, is an atheist.

    "I didn't lose my faith or anything. I never had it in the first place. I never believed in any kind of God, just like I never believed in werewolves, or gho

    Michael has tried to stay positive. But after his family moves for the fourth time in 10 years—and a month and a half into his junior year of high school, no less—he's starting to lose himself. Especially this time, when his parents have enrolled him at St. Clare's, a prestigious Catholic prep school. Because Michael, you see, is an atheist.

    "I didn't lose my faith or anything. I never had it in the first place. I never believed in any kind of God, just like I never believed in werewolves, or ghosts, or that mixing Pop Rocks and soda would make your stomach explode."

    Angry at his father for uprooting the family once again and then never being home on top of it all, Michael is still determined to find a friend, just so school doesn't totally suck. In his history class, he witnesses a fellow student exasperating the nun who is their teacher, and he thinks he may have found a fellow atheist. Instead, he discovers that Lucy is a Catholic and wants to be a priest, but she isn't satisfied with the Church's attitude toward, or treatment of, women, among other things.

    Outcasts in their own way, Lucy and Michael become friends, and she introduces him to the school's other "fringe" students: Avi, who is Jewish—and gay; Max, who wants to wear a cloak even though it clashes with St. Clare's dress code; and Eden, who is a Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheist (she believes in multiple gods). Together, they are Heretics Anonymous, a secret society which exists mostly to give them an outlet to be free to be whomever they want to be.

    As Michael's friendship with his fellow Heretics grows (as do his feelings for Lucy), the group starts to wonder whether it can serve a greater purpose and effect change within the school. But what starts as a set of humorous pranks aimed at highlighting the inconsistencies in some of the school rules (not to mention its treatment of sex), begins to take on a life of its own when something happens to a beloved teacher. Suddenly Michael wants the group to call attention to the school's true hypocrisies, but he doesn't realize just how much he's putting at risk, including his friends.

    "The only thing more dangerous than someone who doesn't care about the rules is someone who does—and wants to break them anyway."

    When you've finally found a community in which you belong, is that enough to satisfy you? Is it our responsibility to point out to others the hypocrisies that surround them, even if they may not be interested? When you don't believe in something, do you need to pretend you do just to make others happy? In

    , Katie Henry attempts to answer those questions against the backdrop of familial angst and the heated emotions of high school relationships.

    I really enjoyed this book. Henry hooked me from the beginning, and while she did paint some of the school's rules and administration as hypocrites, she didn't make them caricatures, and showed a different side of Catholicism through Lucy's character. While not every character is as fleshed out as I would have liked—I feel that there were some great stories to be told by delving deeper into Avi, Max, and Eden's characters—Lucy and Michael are flawed but utterly fantastic.

    While this book is about religion in a small way, it's more about friendship and belonging and trust, about the hopes we hold on to long after we should lay them to rest, and the hurt that we feel when we realize people don't keep their promises. This is a sweet, funny, thought-provoking story, and I wouldn't have minded spending more time with these characters. I'll definitely keep an eye out for what Henry comes up with next!!

    See all of my reviews at

    , or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at

    .

  • ✨    jamieson   ✨

    the only thing it needed was for the school to be forced to sing

    (which is an actual bop) or

    to be a perfect imitation of my own high school experience. SO THAT WAS FUN. I'm convinced Katie Henry went to school with me because she n

    the only thing it needed was for the school to be forced to sing

    (which is an actual bop) or

    to be a perfect imitation of my own high school experience. SO THAT WAS FUN. I'm convinced Katie Henry went to school with me because she nailed it. It was frightening that some conversations and experiences happened to me WORD FOR WORD.

    Heretics Anonymous follows Michael, who must navigate his new school, intensely catholic private school St Clare's. Looking for a friend, Michael attaches himself to a girl called Lucy who called out a Sister during class. Michael thought Lucy would be an atheist like him, but it turns out she's actually a devout catholic who wants to be a priest. Soon she introduces Michael to Heretics Anonymous, a group at the school who don't agree with the rules and hypocrisies at their school.

    I loved how funny this was! At times I laughed out loud, and like I said it was EXTREMELY relatable. I haven't read many books with this kinda school in it and it was fun to see my experiences reflected back to me here. I also loved the discussions around theology and the discussion around the role the church plays as an institution and community. Again, I have to say this is one of the only books I've read that thoroughly and thoughtfully discusses the role of religion in society, and while lots of it felt like Religion in Society 101 for me since I did this for YEARS in school, it was still interesting, and I think if you don't know a lot about Catholicism and it's beliefs (and how different parts of the church implement them) you'd like this. The only thing I would say annoyed me about this book is the beliefs of the Catholic characters seemed very uniform. All the characters seemed to have quite fundamentalist beliefs, which I thought was a bit annoying since many catholics reject the more fundamentalist church beliefs. I don't think this book went as far as it could have in examining how Catholics interact with church beliefs they don't necessarily agree with. But this was also quite a short book and I understand there isn't time to do everything!

    lets talk about characters

    the main character. He's an atheist who has no interest in Christianity and thinks people who believe in religion are a bit delusional. He also has a tense relationship with his father, and is prone to outbursts. I liked Michael in that I felt he was a real character, his personality seemed pretty well rounded and his arc came to a logical end. The relationship with his father was interesting to follow and I thought it was kind of nice to have a character who is a bit naughty or rebellious because they're kinda rare

    the other main character. she's catholic and wants to be a priest. I liked Lucy's character in that I felt she was well rounded and offered such an interesting opposition to michael. Her backstory is also very sympathetic and I liked her relationship with her friends. But I found her arc was a bit incomplete and I would have liked more, particularly in regards to how she reconciles some of her beliefs, as well as the arc around her family.

    Avi is jewish and gay, and Eden is Wiccan and Max is coded as autistic. I enjoyed these characters but I thought all of them could have been more present. At the end of the story they all (and Avi especially) just kinda disappear. They could have been much more involved in the story. They also weren't that well developed or compelling which is a shame because they were interesting characters in theory.

    So aside from a few weakly developed characters and character arcs that felt incomplete, I also COULD NOT get on board with the romance. While I supported the relationship in theory, so many of the couples lines and scenes made me cringe or literally say "ew" out loud. For example, I found Michael saying he wants to worship Lucy as his church extremely cringy and cheesy. I also didn't really feel much chemistry between them and felt so many of their relationship issues weren't resolved properly by the end.

    Overall this book was so fun and I loved the sheer relatability of it. So much in here made me smile or laugh and the high school flashbacks were INTENSE. The characters weren't as well developed as I would have liked, and the romance didn't work for me, it's a short book and the humour makes up for it in many ways. Heretics Anonymous sets itself the task of deconstructing and examining the role of religion in society and it's influence on individuals, and in that pursuit it succeeded enormously. If you're interested in the religious element of this - that being the theological discussion, the experience of going to catholic private school, or you want a blast from the past about your own catholic high school days I'd definitely recommend this. If you want something funny, maybe with humour along the lines of Undead Girl Gang or Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda this book will probably work for you. But if you just want a high school romance, I definitely think there is other books out there to read before this one.

  • Emily May

    is one of the few (actually the only one I can recall) YA books that talks specifically about a lack of religion. The protagonist - Michael - is an atheist who is forced to attend a Catholic high school and he, along with some new friends, attempts an amusing challenge of religious hypocrisy and inadequate sex education (read: outright lies).

    As an atheist who attended my own

    is one of the few (actually the only one I can recall) YA books that talks specifically about a lack of religion. The protagonist - Michael - is an atheist who is forced to attend a Catholic high school and he, along with some new friends, attempts an amusing challenge of religious hypocrisy and inadequate sex education (read: outright lies).

    As an atheist who attended my own Catholic high school, I related to a lot of this. My school was definitely more liberal than St Clare's, public not private, and with regular teachers instead of nuns, but I remember having a lot of questions and issues similar to what Michael has. Also, this is the latest blog update from my old school:

    🙄

    It's a funny book, not one for those unwilling to laugh at some of the more ridiculous aspects of religion, but it's also respectful of anyone's beliefs as long as they agree everyone has the right to believe their own thing and love who they want. Michael is an atheist but his friends range from devoted Catholic to practicing pagan, with

    . At the same time as unpacking some of the misconceptions about safe sex, Michael's own arrogance and dismissal of other beliefs is challenged.

    The humour worked well for me and I laughed out loud a few times, but I think this book follows the pattern of a number of other quirky humourous books that have a weak story and weak characters. Underneath the hilarious and quotable lines, the meat of the book is lacking. The characters are forgettable and read more like a bunch of quirks shaped like a person than fully fleshed-out individuals.

    While some of the funnier quotes remind me of

    , the characters are far less memorable. I think this book will work well for readers who enjoy funny lines and jokes, and are willing to sacrifice plot and character development in exchange for said jokes. I think comedy usually translates well to audio, so I'd also be interested how audiobook readers find this.

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  • Lola

    3.5 stars.

    One of my favourite things is reading about experiences I’m not familiar with so I can participate in them vicariously through the characters.

    For example, I never attended a Catholic private school. And even if my middle school had a ‘‘Religion’’ class, I was placed in the ‘‘Moral’’ one with the other students who weren’t Catholic. I liked it. We talked about what it means to have morals and be a decent human being.

    But Michael is now attending such a school, because his father uproot

    3.5 stars.

    One of my favourite things is reading about experiences I’m not familiar with so I can participate in them vicariously through the characters.

    For example, I never attended a Catholic private school. And even if my middle school had a ‘‘Religion’’ class, I was placed in the ‘‘Moral’’ one with the other students who weren’t Catholic. I liked it. We talked about what it means to have morals and be a decent human being.

    But Michael is now attending such a school, because his father uprooted their family to a new city for his job and enrolled him at a prestigious school that happens to be thoroughly Catholic. I say ‘‘thoroughly Catholic’’ because St. Clare’s has a ‘‘Father’’ as principal and ‘‘Sisters’’ as teachers.

    And guess what? Michael is atheist. His classmates are… not. They pray in class and go to mess and discuss saints and such. Things that Michael is not interesting in. Not at all. However, the moment he thinks he will never fit in and make friends, he meets a group of people who call themselves the ‘‘Heretics Anonymous’’ and bonds with them like he never did with anyone else.

    This story reminded me of the book

    by Jennifer Mathieu. While

    and

    focus on different topics, they both feature a high school whose rules are questionable and strict and whose student body deserves to know the hypocrisy of the institution that is supposed to educate the future leaders of the world.

    So the goal of the Heretics Anonymous is to push students to think critically about issues quickly covered up by authority figures, the different regulations enforced that students are expected to follow blindly as well as the wrong information given by the school, especially when it comes to sex education. FYI, that specific part is hilarious.

    It seems like such a serious story with heavy themes and a cast of characters that wish to revolutionize the way their school functions in general. All of that is true and the characters’ intentions certainly are noble, but they also make mistakes before realizing that nothing is either black or white; there are shades of gray everywhere, and although we all want to be right and for our opinion to be the one that matters most, we have to consider other people when we plan to change how things work in a community, and a school is a community of a sort.

    Surprisingly, their mistakes are very entertaining and the ideas they come up with to influence the student body to think differently quite interesting, though not particularly original since some are similar to those featured in

    .

    I found myself smiling while reading about the friendship dynamics between Michael and his crew, the Heretics Anonymous, seeing that they discuss not only the school and Catholicism, but also their own particular beliefs that shape who they are as a person. Lucy especially is a wise, if not a little stubborn, young woman who’s not going to try to convert you, but will show you how important it is to believe in something, anything, and not necessarily God. It can be love. It can be friendship. It can be family.

    In sum, this is light-hearted enough to make you smile and laugh during certain parts, but undeniably realistic, meaning that other scenes will hit you hard with their raw emotions. I would have given it more, and certainly wanted to, but except for dear Lucy, we as readers are not particularly connected to the Heretics Anonymous members. We get a sense of their personalities and what matters to them most, but they seemed to exist for the purpose of this group alone, whereas Lucy is still Lucy whether she’s part of the group or not, and because she becomes very important to Michael. Still, quite enjoyable.

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  • Chelsea (chelseadolling reads)

    I didn’t hate this, but it definitely did not live up to the hype for me. Mega womp ☹

    I didn’t hate this, but it definitely did not live up to the hype for me. Mega womp ☹️

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