I studied senior high in a private catholic school, and this book served as a time-travelling machine going back to that time.
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 Catholic . . . she wants to be a priest.
But Lucy introduces Michael to other St. Clare’s outcasts, and he officially joins Heretics Anonymous, where he can be an atheist, Lucy can be an outspoken feminist, Avi can be Jewish and gay, Max can wear whatever he wants, and Eden can practice paganism. After an incident in theology class, Michael encourages the Heretics to go from secret society to rebels intent on exposing the school’s hypocrisies. When Michael takes one mission too far—putting the other Heretics at risk—he must decide whether to fight for his own freedom, or rely on faith, whatever that means, in God, his friends, or himself.
Katie Henry’s writing was easy to follow through. I like the metaphors she used and the humorous way of narration. However, I find Michael’s voice inconsistent. He can sound intellectual now, but be naive later. He can be funny and witty, but gets easily irritated at some point.
A lot of lines in this book are quotable, so there is that.
“The only thing more dangerous than someone who doesn’t care about the rules is someone who does – and wants to break them anyway.”
― Heretics Anonymous
Like the protagonist, I studied in a private catholic school (for two years). The setting of Heretics Anonymous felt authentic to me and I imagined it to be as a true-to-life story. The rules a catholic school implements in their institution can be unfair indeed, and sometimes you just can’t prevent yourself from wondering if some it were even relevant in molding the students to become a better person. The dress code, how long or what color your hair is, the type of clothes you wear or the color of nail polish you use. Some of it just don’t even make sense.
“That girl’s visible collarbone is distracting me from calculus.” – No Person Ever”
― Heretics Anonymous
There are issues I find in the plot of this book. I feel like the characters lacked of depth. They were not fleshed-out enough. There weren’t enough backstories to each members of Heretics Anonymous, or a backstory about the HA itself (their experience before Michael became a part of it). The journey of the characters throughout the book weren’t enough to make them unforgettable. The ending didn’t stick with me and I find it lacking.
At first, I thought of giving this book a 3.5 star rating, but as I write this review I realize it should be 4 stars. There are personal things that I resonated with the protagonist and elements of the story that I highly appreciate. I don’t think I read a book that tackled religion like this one, no. The set of characters are diverse too. The catholic school setting felt true and relatable. I studied senior high in a private catholic school, and this book served as a time-travelling machine going back to that time.
PS: I wrote a separate spoilery review where I explain certain things that I didn’t like about this book. You can read it on my Goodreads here.
About The Author
“Hi! My name is Katie Henry, and I write books and plays for and about my favorite demographic of people: teenagers. I spent my own teen years in Berkeley, California, an ultra-liberal college town where adolescent rebellion takes the form of eating refined sugars or voting Republican. I moved to New York City for college and decided to stay, even though the avocados here frequently disappoint me. My interests include feminist/liberation theology, medieval history, and overthinking absolutely everything.”