The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie OakesThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Published by Dial Books on June 9th, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 400

A hard-hitting and hopeful story about the dangers of blind faith—and the power of having faith in yourself.

The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, her ability to trust. And when she rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now their Prophet has been murdered and their camp set aflame, and it's clear that Minnow knows something—but she's not talking. As she languishes in juvenile detention, she struggles to un-learn everything she has been taught to believe, adjusting to a life behind bars and recounting the events that led up to her incarceration. But when an FBI detective approaches her about making a deal, Minnow sees she can have the freedom she always dreamed of—if she’s willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Gorgeously written, breathlessly page-turning and sprinkled with moments of unexpected humor, this harrowing debut is perfect for readers of Emily Murdoch's If You Find Me and Nova Ren Suma's The Walls Around Us as well as for fans of Orange is the New Black.

4.5 Stars

Everyone always assumes it’s with hands that people disobey. The Prophet thought so, too. If only he knew, if only everyone knew, my hands were never the source of my disobedience.

Now that I’ve read it, I wonder why this book isn’t talked about more, but then again, I probably wouldn’t have read it if my friend and co-blogger Chantal hadn’t pushed it on me. She was right to do so, because after reading it, I wanted to kick myself for not picking this up sooner. This book is so, so good.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a masterpiece of packing a punch without overdoing it. The book is based on the tale The Girl Without Hands by the Brothers Grimm and cleverly wraps the tale up in a story of abuse, friendship, love, and beliefs with a sprinkle of mystery.

I adored Minnow Bly. A little naïve, a little damaged, but not an innocent lamb, not at all. I admired her for her strength to fight and her determination to get the answers she needed to carry on. Her voice is refreshing and authentic, and it lends the story the haunted narration it needed. The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly may look tame from the outside but its content is at times quite bloody and even terrifying. Told from her point of view, the storyline is divided into the present, in which Minnow is sent to juvie after having assaulted someone, and flashbacks from the past, which depict the horrors Minnow has suffered at the hands of the Kevinian cult leader. In spite of going back and forth, Oakes managed to keep everything neatly balanced and untangled.

Besides the obvious topic of abuse and brainwashing taking place in cults, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly has a strong focus on female friendship. At the detention centre, Minnow befriends her sassy, tough-acting cellmate Angel. The friendship between shy, little Minnow and ballsy Angel is as unlikely as it is beautiful. With the help of Angel, Minnow embarks on a journey, not only of self-discovery but of everything she has never been allowed to question with the cult. With the flashbacks, Oakes also weaves in a subtle romance, one both sweet and tragic.

Jude taught me what love was: to be willing to hold on to another person’s pain. That’s it.

I really enjoyed how the author handled religion and beliefs as well as the critique of the justice system. The book poses some tough questions without passing judgement. The amount of lines I wrote down is testimony to the highly philosophical, thought-provoking nature of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly.

There were some small things that didn’t add up. An example being a mystical aspect of the book never being explained, or Angel being in good with the guards at juvie and bribing her way into everything. I mean, I can’t say I have any insider experience here, but that seems more like something straight out of the show Prison Break. But maybe I’m just incredulous.

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly deserves all the credit it can get for wrapping up a Grimm’s tale, the atrocities happening in cults, a romance and a strong friendship, and a murder investigation in one book. This book is dark and gritty but it spreads empowering messages and asks difficult questions, and if you need a little something different in YA, then this book is your address. Highly recommended!


  1. Cait @ Paper Fury

    October 21, 2017 at 2:12 PM

    oh I adored this one too! And I agree it’s thoroughly underrated. It was so creepy and sinister and I felt so bad for Minnow.😭 Definitely such a good twist on the old Grimm version!

    • nina

      October 21, 2017 at 2:35 PM

      Thank you for commenting, Cait! Honestly, I’d be part of the reason this book is underrated if it hadn’t been for my co-blogger pushing this amazing book on me. It just didn’t get a lot of attention, did it? I really loved the eery setting. It just underpinned the story so much more. Glad you liked this one, too! 🙂

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