September 19, 2010

Losing Faith: Review

They're sisters, but Brie feels like they couldn't be further apart. Faith's the good daughter with a passion for religion; Brie's the cynical one who sneaks off to parties with her boyfriend. And then Faith dies, and everything changes.

Her mom spirals into depression, her father refuses to talk about anything important, and Brie herself can't decide how she really feels. As she tries to make sense of it all, everything she finds out about Faith's life makes her question her sister's death. Was it really an accident? And will discovering the answer finally give Brie the peace she needs to let her sister go?

Losing Faith by Denise Jaden


I really loved Brie's voice. She's got a bit of a chip on her shoulder when it comes to church and religion, she's sarcastic, and she's really hurting. She writes terrible poetry (don't worry, she admits it) and she's totally phobic about heights. Brie feels very real. She may paint herself as the "black sheep" of the family, but she's not so rebellious that she falls into the over-the-top, roll-your-eyes cliche. Brie's just not at all like Faith - and that's great.

Also, the emotional rollercoaster she's on after her sister dies is believable. They weren't close in life, and they're even further apart now that Faith is gone. Brie resents her for having died, resents her for being so "perfect" in life, misses her terribly but can't shed a tear. I do wish we'd been given a few more glimpses of Brie's memories of Faith; when Brie does recall times she shared with Faith, we see a hint of that long-ago bond between them. Also, it might have fleshed Faith out a bit more - as the book goes on we get a better understanding of Faith's religious beliefs, but not as much of her as a person.

Jaden's characterization as a whole is excellent. Brie's mom and dad are both well depicted, her mother having an emotional breakdown and barricading herself in her room, and her father burying himself in his job. She does a fabulous job of showing how differently people can react to tragedy, and how the grieving process naturally takes time. Brie's acquaintance who gradually grows into a friend, Tessa, is an extremely colorful character. She's defensive, opinionated, and difficult to understand through much of the book - I had a much easier time relating to Brie - but her past (and present) explains a lot of her behaviour.

Reena's another intriguing character...won't say too much here as to avoid spoilers, but she's very unstable and in need of some serious help. As is Nathan, although his motivations are a little less clear than Reena's (and we don't really find out what happens to him at the end.) These two were both incredibly interesting from a psychological perspective, and although we are given some idea what's going on in their minds, I would have welcomed a bit more insight into their beliefs and their behaviour.

I enjoyed seeing the slow relationship build between Brie and Reena's brother, Alis (although his nickname is unfortunate). It was nice to see a YA book that wasn't *all* about the romance. Yes, the mutual interest between them is there, but they start out wary of each other, then become friends, and that leads to something more. Brie has enough on her plate with fishing around for clues about Faith's death, and having a huge heated romance happening at the same time would have been a bit much to swallow. Alis always remained a bit of a mystery to me as a character, but I think he felt that way to Brie as well, and at the end of the book we're left with the sense that they now have time to get to know each other better.

The one character I felt was a little flat was Celeste, Faith's friend. I didn't have a clear picture of her in my mind, and for a long time she just seems really timid and scared. She proves herself later in a crisis situation, but we never learn too much about her life or even her memories of Faith.


Jaden really manages to delve into the human psyche in this novel. Death, grief, depression, denial and OCD are all touched upon and handled well. It was great to see the psychological elements play an important role without taking center stage.

Religious beliefs are also discussed without coming across as preachy (this is a pet peeve of mine in books that handle religion, so I'm very happy that Jaden avoids that).

Spoilers here, highlight to read:

I'd heard that cults played a role in this book before I read it, so I could guess a good part of the mystery surrounding Faith's death. Nevertheless, I still found the religious fanaticism element of it intriguing, particularly in that it is tied in with Reena's OCD. Having majored in psychology, I knew this was a sub-type of OCD, but unlike depression or eating disorders, it's rare to come across it in YA books. The way the cult-like group was depicted - the morbid slogans, the levels of 'devotedness', the branding - was twisted but believable, especially given Reena's psychological problems.

The one thing I took issue with was the portrayal of hypnotism at the cliff edge. I didn't think enough of the necessary elements of hypnotism from real life (for instance, a soothing voice speaking for several minutes in a calming setting, coupled with an individual who wishes to succumb) were present for there to be any chance that one of the teens could be hypnotized. I did appreciate that it is later pointed out that the hypnotic trance can't be forced on anyone who doesn't want to be hypnotized. That's a little-known fact - many people believe that you can be made to do any number of things against your will - and so I was really pleased to see that myth blown wide open.


While I didn't find it to be a grip-you-to-your-seat read, I always came back wanting to know how everything ended. Also, if you like character development (and I do), then you'll enjoy Losing Faith. Brie, of course, goes through a lot of realizations, but you can see changes in her mother and Tessa as well. There's one very sweet scene that occurs between Brie and her mom, and another between Brie and Tessa involving a poem of Brie's that is actually quite insightful!

I did find the ending to be a little anti-climactic. Don't get me wrong - a lot of it is heart-pounding stuff that, if you're like Brie (and me) and share a fear of heights, will make you quiver. The resolution does make sense, and I liked that it paid tribute to the power of both of Brie's friendships, but it felt a little safe. Perhaps I was just hoping for something a bit more dramatic.

Also, I have to mention this one scene: where Brie is giving her testament to Faith at the memorial service, in the form of a poem. I really felt for Brie in that scene and I was so embarrassed right along with her! I hate public speaking and I can just imagine how awful she must have felt as she realized how the words must be sounding as they came out.

Writing style: 

It's written from Brie's point of view, and since I enjoyed her character and voice it was quite easy to read. The pacing for Losing Faith was just about perfect, with the device of Brie's stated "plans" working well to remind the reader where they were in the scheme of things while subtly reflecting Brie's need for control over the situation. 

Final verdict: 4 shooting stars. This is a thought-provoking book about loss, grief, secrets, fears, and trust.

Disclaimer: I won this book in a giveaway.


  1. Fantastic review! I definitely want to read this one but the religious aspects kind of put me off as I'm not religious myself!

  2. YAY good to know it's a good one. I read the 1st few pgs.. i'm already enjoying Bries voice. IDK which book to read next.

  3. Very thorough review. I really want to read this and your review only makes me want to read it more! I always love a good book that makes you think.

  4. Brie sounds interesting but the whole focus on grief and loss is just not something I think I'd enjoy reading so I'll probably have to pass on this one. Thanks for the great review!


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