Title: The Boundless Sublime
Author: Lili Wilkinson
Genre: Contemporary YA
Themes: Death, cults, friendship, family, grief, who the heck calls their child Fox?
My blurb: Ruby is very messed up after her brother’s death. At the Institute of the Boundless Sublime and with her new friend Fox, she feels relieved from all the darkness in her life. But there’s more to the Institute—and Fox—than Ruby thinks.
This book kind of scared me. But I actually really enjoyed it. Recently in psychology class we watched a documentary about a cult (the Kool-aid ones) and based on what I know from that and other experiences, the way the brainwashing and subtleties of a cult were portraked was chillingly accurate.
The plot, as one might imagine, introduced Ruby and The Institute For The Boundless Sublime, then involved her getting deeper and deeper into it before realising nothing is as great as it seems on the outside, cults included.
For a contemporary book about an unusual topic, it was generally quite realistic. Except the ending. Spoilery spoiler below (select to view (I stole this from Grace when spoiler tag code killed my brain)):
Basically, Ruby escapes and gets home with her mum. She’s recovering and everything seems okay. Suddenly, though, it turns out that her mother as been part of the cult all along, and takes her back, but not before Ruby’s been de-brainwashed. Then to get back at her, the evil cult leader ‘Daddy’ tells everyone she’s the holy ‘scintilla’ and must be sacrifices so they can all be ‘sublime’. Also, I could tell Fox wasn’t dead.
But the very ending—Ruby in a halfway house making peace with the world—was nice.
Ruby’s narration—in past 1st person, with hindsight/perspective on the situations but also utterly in the moment—was captivation, and I really liked all the characterization, although I hated some characters. They were so well written, and Daddy so scary that at times I actually had to stop reading.
Oh, the setting! The city was fine, but particularly the Red House and the Institute felt so so real. I was really *taken* there.
I guess the themes/message about dealing with death, falling in love, what family is, and brain washing weren’t always subtle but generally worked well.
All in all, this book was terrifyingly realistic (except the ending) with strong characters and an amazing setting. I really liked it, but not as much as Lili Wilkinson’s other books.
Theme and writing: 4/5
Have you read this? How do you feel about cults? What about creepy contemporaries? What’s one good #loveOzYA you’ve read recently?