“Heretics are usually true believers. The only thing more dangerous than someone who doesn’t care about the rules is someone who does—and wants to break them anyway.”
So begins 16-year-old Michael’s introduction to a secret underground club at St. Clare’s—his exclusive new Catholic school—known as Heretics Anonymous. Michael’s career-driven father has recently uprooted the family yet again—thus breaking his promise to Michael and his younger sister, Sophia—and has insisted on sending Michael to St. Clare’s for his junior year. As an avowed atheist, Michael has a bumpy start at the school as he tries to navigate Catholic traditions, but he fits in well with the other misfits in the club: a Jewish kid, a Wiccan and a girl named Lucy who wants to become a Catholic priest.
At first, Heretics Anonymous meetings serve as a place for the teens to complain about St. Clare’s restrictive rules. But at Michael’s urging, the club begins to take on an activist role. The Heretics secretly interrupt the annual abstinence assembly with a video that contains facts about sexual health, and later they encourage their fellow students to creatively interpret the school’s dress code.
The Heretics’ high jinks provide Michael with a distraction from his home life: His father is perpetually away on business, and when he is home, he and Michael are constantly at odds, and his mother’s attempts to keep her family together grate on Michael. In the meantime, the Heretics attend their share of awkward teen parties, and Michael and Lucy begin to act on their simmering attraction to one another.
But soon the club starts to get out of hand. At what point do the Heretics’ protests do more harm than good? And has Michael been drawing the wrong conclusions about his father all along?
Debut author Katie Henry writes with a deep respect for the religious beliefs her characters simultaneously adore and eschew. Lucy’s devotion to a tradition that will never meet her expectations is particularly sensitively drawn. Pick up this funny yet thoughtful young adult novel if you’re ready to question your own assumptions about family, friendship and faith.