Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader
Publication date: August 18th 2013
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Since the age of ten, Mia has lived under the iron fist of the fundamentalist preacher who lured her mother away to join his fanatical family of followers. In Edenton, a supposed “Garden of Eden” deep in the South American jungle, everyone follows the Reverend’s strict but arbitrary rules—even the mandate of whom they can marry. Now sixteen, Mia dreams of slipping away from the armed guards who keep the faithful in, and the curious out. When the rebellious and sexy Gabriel, a new boy, arrives with his family, Mia sees a chance to escape.
But the scandalous secrets the two discover beyond the compound’s façade are more shocking than anything they ever imagined. While Gabriel has his own terrible secrets, he and Mia bond together, more than friends and freedom fighters. But is there time to think of each other as they race to stop the Reverend’s paranoid plan to free his flock from the corrupt world? Can two teenagers crush a criminal mastermind? And who will die in the fight to save the ones they love from a madman who’s only concerned about his own secrets?
Book Review ~ ‘Escape From Eden’ by Elisa Nader ~ 5 Stars
You know those books that you don’t just read but experience right alongside the main characters? Like the great Harry Potter series, this book is up there with the best. I felt every single emotion that these characters must have felt, felt the hairs on my arms stand up on end, and admired the determined strength that Mia had throughout the novel, the faith that she had in humanity despite all that she had witnessed in her life, and her hope for a future for not just herself but for her friends and family.
The concept of this book intrigued me as soon as I read the blurb, and I knew immediately that this was going to be one of those storylines that if executed properly, would blow me away. And oh did it blow me away. ‘Escape from Eden’ to me had a hint of dystopian witch-trials to it. I held the same shock and fear within me as I read this book as I have when I read ‘Witch Child’ by Celia Rees and ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller. The creation of the fanatical preacher and what the power of words can cause his followers to do in his name was chilling. I had my hand to my mouth in shock and fear when the preaching began to take a deadly turn after a refreshment break during the preacher’s ‘Bright Night’. Nothing I can say will do this chapter justice, so I just had to use this passage to show how chilling this story is!
“Now,” said the Reverend. He stood then, folding his hands behind him. He began to pace. “Tonight, I’ve orchestrated the ultimate lesson on greed.” All movement ceased. Only wide-eyed gazes shifted to follow the Reverend walk back and forth along the edge of the stage. Silence reigned. He smiled out over us. “Those of you who ate one cookie will be fine.” I shot a confused look at Juanita. She shrugged.
“Those who ate two cookies will experience a little stomach trouble, nothing more.” Around the pavilion hands went involuntarily to abdomens. My own stomach, even though I hadn’t eaten any cookies, roiled. My palms began to sweat. I rubbed them against my skirt. “Those who ate three will spend the rest of the night vomiting.” Panic stabbed me. A round of gasps swept across the Flock. “And those who ate four or more?” He paused, scrutinizing us as we sat staring up at him, dumbfounded. “Will be dead before sunrise.”
Absolutely chill inducing, right?
The introduction of Gabriel’s character was a lifeline to myself and to main character Mia. I felt as helpless reading the book as Mia must have felt at knowing her chances at escape were low. The relationship that forged between Mia and Gabriel was beautiful, fun and at times heartbreaking. I loved that despite the years of tyrannical preaching that Mia had been subjected to, she still felt human emotions that at times almost overwhelmed her. I loved that Mia felt jealousy when she saw Gabriel with her best friend, and the kindness with which he treated her.
The mystery behind the creation and goings on in Eden was paced perfectly. At first you feel for Mia when you realise that she feels trapped in this society that she never chose to be a part of, and then gradually as the deeds of the preacher and his followers become more and more dark, you begin to wildly guess at what the ulterior motives of the characters are. I really liked how well-rounded all the characters were, especially the secondary characters like Grizz who I grew to love despite his dedication to the preachers cause. I liked that he felt conflicted at some of his orders, and that he always showed some kind of emotion. The scenes that he had with Gabriel, whilst mostly being in the way to punish Gabriel for his troublemaking behaviour, gave some light relief and also gave me hope that Gabriel would be his saviour if the occasion arose that he needed it at the end of the story.
The action scenes were written to perfection, and I was on the edge of my seat as I waited to see what the fate of these characters I had grown to love so much would be. The way that a whole community turned against each other due to the power of one man was frightening.
Overall, this was a fantastic, scary, chilling, mind-blowing and all round brilliant story. This is one of those books that reminds me of why I love reading so much!
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