Title: Minor Prophets
Author: Jimmy Cajoleas
Publisher: ABRAMS Kids
After their mother’s death, two siblings must navigate the strange world of the occult in this thrilling YA mysteryGoodreads
Lee has always seen visions: cats that his mother promises aren’t really there, a homeless man who he’s convinced is out to get him, and three men who give him ominous warnings in the woods. His mother and his sister Murphy try to keep him grounded in the real world. But when his mother dies in a car accident and her horrible husband tries to adopt them, Lee and Murphy flee to their grandmother’s ranch, which they’ve only heard about in stories. But is there a reason why their mother never brought them there? And what horrid truths lurk behind Lee’s haunting visions? Thrilling, twisty, and poignant, Minor Prophets will keep readers guessing until the final page.
You know those books that while you’re reading you think to yourself, “what tf am I reading”? That’s exactly what I was thinking almost the entire time I was reading Minor Prophets. It’s the sort of book that aims to confuse you just to do it.
Honestly, I don’t think this book is for everyone. I think it would work well for people who are new to this sort of genre, both in books shows/movies, because then they wouldn’t be able to predict what was happening from a mile away. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people.
Essentially, this book is about an insecure psychic brother, Lee, and badass sister, Murphy, whose mother mysteriously dies suddenly, forcing them to go live with their grandmother. Once they get to the Farm, where she lives, they quickly realize that secrets are being kept from them. BIG secrets. Involving them, their ancestors, and the town surrounding the Farm and its people. I don’t want to give much away because I’m not sure if the author wanted the mystery to be a big surprise or not. However, I will tell you that I felt mislead by the summary that was chosen. I went into the book thinking that it would be an occult mystery involving psychics and the paranormal. That is what the summary lead me, personally, to believe and I was excited to read a book like that! Unfortunately for me that is not what this book ended up being about. It’s more grounded in reality than the summary makes it seem, just the crazy side of reality.
Before I go into what I didn’t like about the book, which was most of it, let’s talk about what was good. The best part of the book is the mystery. There was some part of it, even though I was able to guess what the mystery was pretty early on, that kept me reading so kudos to Cajoleas for accomplishing that. It’s like when you’re stuck in traffic for forever and you find out it’s from an accident, so when you finally pass where the accident happened you rubberneck and stare at it just because you wanted to see what was holding everyone up. You want to know what happened and see it for yourself even though it’s horrible and you already knew what happened. I wanted to confirm for myself what I had already figured out. Unfortunately, the pacing, character development, world building, and even just the writing was where it fell flat for me.
This book had a very slow build-up, which is fine but what put me off was the pacing. There’s not a lot of action until the very end of the book, and then it’s just over. There is way too much introduction and backstory through memories that really did very little to expand what I knew about the characters, the plot, or the world.
The main character and narrator of the book is Lee.
As a narrator Lee is very unreliable. He is psychic, or prophetic, as the book is called Minor Prophets, and the entire book is first person from his perspective. We spend a lot of time in his thoughts which isn’t my thing. I don’t care to read the random trains of thoughts characters have. At one point I tried to figure out if his trains of thought meant anything or were relevant to the plot and I couldn’t figure it out. Case in point:
“The ultimate suckers those chickens were. Sure, they got fed and protected, but to what end? A comfortable life serving the ones who will ring your neck one day and eat you and all your children? It was a bad deal no matter how you cut it.”
As a character, Lee is definitely the more sensitive, impressionable, naïve, lonely, and insecure of the two siblings. Due to his ability, and his inability to understand or interpret it, he becomes more and more isolated, eventually isolating himself from the only person he can truly trust. His sister.
Murphy is his sister.
She was great. We never really came to understand her too much, since all the characters were not very well developed. However, she was the yin to Lee’s yang and was the sanest character out of all the characters in this book.
Their mom is a terrible mom. That’s all I really have to say about her because she was so inconsequential to the storyline.
Their grandma… an actual psycho. I won’t say anymore cause spoilers, but she’s psycho and the only character that actually appears to have any sort of a motivation.
There was quite a bit of other minor characters, but they mostly all blur together and I didn’t care about any of them. I didn’t really care about any of the characters in this book.
This book takes place in our world, which means that the author doesn’t really have to do much world building himself. He just has to give us a sense of place so we can picture a scene in our mind. Or at least have a vague concept of where they would be on a map of the US, since it’s set in the US. I didn’t get that at all. I’m pretty sure we were told where they were but the lack of useful description made it so I wasn’t able to picture much of anything in my mind.
On top of that, Lee is a psychic/prophetic. He has visions. He’s also not the only person in this world to have visions. That means that there is a precedent and that precedent should, at least in some part, be explained to the reader. Or interwoven into the world building. That is not the case for this book. All I want to know is WHY and HOW is Lee psychic? Who else has abilities like his? Is it genetic? What’s going on?????
Ugh. This was the most problematic for me. I could make a big rant about this part but I want to keep it at least semi-short and sweet. Here are some bullet points:
- It’s hard to get into. There are a ridiculous number of run-on sentences. I don’t know if this was a stylistic choice because it’s how people think and we are in Lee’s head for the entire story, but it kept taking me out of the story.
- The dialogue is weird and not realistic to how people, especially siblings, talk to each other. The swearing was weird, though that may be a regional thing, idk I’ve never been to the south. Also, what brother and sister call each other “big brother” or little sister? As an older sister I can say that I definitely do NOT call my sister little sister. I either call her by her name or some stupid name that we came up with while growing up.
- The atmosphere attempts to be creepy or eerie and falls flat.
So. I ended up giving this book a 2.75 out of 5 stars. That’s almost a three. Clearly, I did not hate this book. The plot was interesting and once we got to the “mystery” part I was pretty intrigued even though it was not what I was expecting at all. I think this book has a lot of potential. If the “magic” system was better thought out and explained, the characters were better developed and each given their own, clear motivations, and the summary was changed to actually depict what the story was about, I think it could have been a really good book. I was hoping for something like Sawkill Girls and I got Sawkill Girls’ second cousin twice removed that doesn’t have great social skills. However, if this does sound like a book that you would like, it actually comes out today!