Those Who Prey

S. & S./Atheneum. Dec. 2020. 416p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781534450967.
Gr 9 Up–Emily envisioned her move to Boston as a fresh start: A glossy college pamphlet photo filled with new friends and cherry blossoms. But after a rough first semester, Emily is left feeling lonely and homesick. When she meets green-eyed Josh and his red-headed friend Heather, the teen is pleased that her college life is finally coming together. But through calculated affirmation and subtle peer pressure, Emily is not only pulled into a new friend group, but eventually baptized into the Kingdom. Slowly, her volunteer work and classes become secondary to partner-guided Bible studies and accountability tallying, and when Emily is chosen for a Kingdom internship in Italy, she jumps at the chance to recruit with her friends overseas. But once in Tuscany, peer pressure gradually turns to shaming and fear. And then Emily finds her assigned discipling partner dead. Corded phones, card catalogs, and Walkman cassette players set the scene for this 90s story. Excerpts from interviews and snippets of an article covering the fall of the Kingdom are slotted between sections of the book to provide foundation and foreshadowing, and the work explores the post-cult emotional healing process in a unique way. Vague character descriptions and easily rationalized situations leave the reader with an uneasy understanding—Emily could be any of us.
VERDICT For readers of true crime, thrillers, and cult novels searching for an atypical story.

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