(I would like to make a note to my subscribers that I am in the midst of my last semester as a grad student and am taking a young adult literature course. Since I am reading these books for class, I will be posting about them; thus for the next two months I will not be posting as many classics as usual. Please be assured that in the future I will resume my regular reading material.)
The struggles Jason Bock encounters in Godless in order to declare he is free of the religion he believes is forced upon him by his parents, are both interesting and controversial. Hautman provides a groundbreaking look at something many young people must come to grips with at some point in their lives- disagreeing with their parents, especially in terms of religious teachings. Although the author makes it obvious that Jason is extremely intelligent, there is a question as to how realistic it is that a high school student has moments of profound insight into intellectual and religious matters which are a bit beyond his years. Often times, the novel seems to be written more from the retrospective perspective of an adult than that of a teenager.
The text oscillates between Jason making very adult observations and stumbling upon other findings which allows the story of the Chutengodians appear to be merely a childlike orchestration . Jason distains the TPO meetings lead by Just Al. He realizes that much of what is discussed in the meetings doesn’t make sense. Most teenagers are able to discern that there is circular logic involved in Just Al’s reasoning. However, Jason is able to transition to the fact that this is “brainwashing.” Where would a teen such as Jason learn about brainwashing? How would any of the kids in the TPO group have any idea that their parents were forcing their own beliefs onto their children until later in life when they were offered other beliefs as an option? Jason acts much more like a young person when he is punched by Henry. He lies on the ground and stares up at the sky. This is when, by chance, he notices the water tower. “Water is life,” he says. In this way the author keeps the reader guessing throughout the novel as to whether or not Jason knew what he was doing when he began his new religion.
Jason’s discovery of the water tower is innocent enough, but when he presents his idea for worship of the idol to Shin, his more knowledgeable persona comes out again. It is almost as though the narrator presents two sides to Jason in the novel: the child and the adult. It is the adult who chooses to present the clever and existential questions which cause problems for the kids deciding to start a new religion. It is incredibly clever for the narrator to challenge what is unproven in religion by creating his own god. “You’re saying the water tower is God?”
“Think about it,” I say.
Shin thinks about it.
“Prove me wrong,” I say.
The reason it must be an adult coming out in Jason is because most kids ask questions regarding blind faith in religion, but when adults tell them they just need to believe, they don’t push the issue any further.
For adults reading the novel, it is easy to read very deeply into each line and assume younger readers won’t comprehend or don’t consider these issues . The teen years are the transitionary period between child and adulthood; kids’ minds are blossoming and the gears are turning in ways adults cannot imagine. Whether a person agrees or disagrees with the messages Hautman sends with his inquisitive characters, the novel is a great opportunity for, both young and old readers to ruminate over the topics addressed. After all, the quirky and laughable Jason Bock is the perfect person to present the question: “Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?”