All page notations are from the 2018 hardcover edition from Katherine Tegen Books.
Katie Henry’s Heretics Anonymous starts out with the introduction of Michael, who is just starting at a Catholic High School after moving for the fourth time in his life. There’s only one problem though. He’s Atheist. He expects the school to be full of die hard Catholics but finds that the school is diverse in its beliefs gaining friends who are anywhere from Jewish to Celtic Reconstruction Polytheism. Lucy brings him to Heretics Anonymous, a group that she and three others formed together and offers him a chance to join. A chance that he happily takes. Together they go public, anonymously pointing out the inconsistencies in their school education though videos and newspapers. But Michael, in a fit of rage, takes a mission too far and puts the whole group in jeopardy. Who does he choose: saving his friends or himself?
A Divine Comedy indeed. Heretics Anonymous is hilarious. Michael in particular makes jokes constantly throughout, calling the Catholic version of Communion as the “calmest cannibalization ritual I’ve ever seen.”(pg. 37) Other times irony in Catholicism is pointed out, for instance that Saint Lawrence, who was roasted alive on a spit, is the Patron Saint of Cooks. Henry does a wonderful job of using humor to lighten the mood while still being able to hold a serious conversation about real life issues including, but not limited to, Homophobia, Sexism and Xenophobia. If you can’t take someone poking fun at what you believe in then this definitely isn’t the book for you.
Heretics Anonymous does a great job of allowing for religious discussion without making it ever feel like a conversion story. At no point did I feel like I was being pushed to believe what the characters did. Lucy is one of the main people who explains why she follows Catholicism despite all of the things that that come with it that she disagrees with, particularly with anti-feminism passages in the Bible. However, despite her faith she is willing to speak out against what she thinks is wrong with it and willing to listen and have a discussion about it. This is a quality that I think is valuable to show. It is possible to follow your own religious faith without being unwilling to hear what other people have to say about their own religion or yours.
I really enjoyed this novel, but I wish that the characters were developed a bit better. For instance you know that Lucy’s father isn’t around very much but it is never stated why. Does he have to work a lot to support his children or is he just a deadbeat dad? Aside from their personality traits you don’t know much about Lucy, Max, Eden, and Avi. You learn more about Michael to a degree but there is still room for growth and this is what I found to be the most disappointing thing about this novel.
Overall I really enjoyed this novel. It was a lot of fun to read despite the lack of character development. This novel made me laugh out loud many times and it made for a light read that had some discussion on more adult topics.