The Outcast Oracle by Laury A. Egan (2013)

EganOutcastOracleNot your average teenage morality tale, that’s for sure!  Remember, this was published by the Humanist Press.  I’m not sure what to make of it.

Charlene aka Charlie was definitely unlucky in her parents and grandparents in many ways, although there may be little pockets of good in them here and there.  Way too much booze, compulsive liars, and as selfish and greedy as you can imagine.  Still, Charlie has learned to cope.  When her parents (never married to one another) run off and leave her with her maternal grandfather, he uses her in his frauds and schemes in a variety of ways.  She copes, and frankly does not know any better.  She is very smart, which her grandfather finds useful, but also allows her to imagine a better life for herself once she is old enough to be on her own.  Then Grandpa dies, and for a variety of pretty rational reasons, she conceals his body and thus avoids the foster care or orphanage she has been taught to dread.

Not long after she has been left on her own, a fast-talking ex-boyfriend of her mother appears, calls himself Blake Cody, and claims to be Buffalo Bill’s descendant.  He also tells her that her mother is on her way, and will be there in a few days.  Not too surprising, everything he has told her is a lie.

Blake is flirtatious, but not really a rapist.  His goal is to make use of Charlie in perpetuating and expanding the schemes of her grandfather, including setting her up as a miracle worker and oracle.  He figures he will seduce her, gain her trust, and have a cash cow for the rest of his life.

It doesn’t work out that way mostly because Charlie has a mind of her own, and plans to go to college and make something respectable of herself.  I think this story was intended for an adolescent readership, and as such may indeed offer suggestions to kids whose families are severely dysfunctional.  Unfortunately, it may also be seen as endorsing fraud and lying.  There’s no “sin and repent” theme as in most religion-based morality stories, and that makes it disturbing, for good or ill.

Statements in this review do not necessarily express the thoughts or opinions of the Ethical Society of St. Louis or its leadership.