All Janine wants is to be a normal teenager. But when she survived the suicide bombing that killed her parents and many others ten years ago, people began to see her as a symbol of hope and faith. Each year, on the anniversary of the bombing, reporters have flocked to her, the sole survivor, now dubbed “Soul Survivor,” to create stories of inspiration for their readers. But Janine feels her routine life is anything but inspirational.
On the tenth anniversary of the bombing, Janine finds the reporters are camped outside her house again, hoping to snag a story. Her closest friends want Janine to use her fame and publicity to further their own causes. Even Dave Armstrong, the passerby-turned-hero who pulled her from the rubble after the bombing, has shown up in town. Now a religious leader, he hopes to convince Janine that her destiny lies with him. She is the one who will bring faith in God and His miracles to Armstrong’s followers.
Janine angrily rejects them all, clinging desperately to whatever shreds of normalcy remain. But those shreds unravel when it appears she can heal people. Caught up in the religious fervor that follows, Janine begins to believe and maybe to fear that Armstrong might be right, that this, indeed, may be her true destiny.
Believe is an excellent, fast-paced novel, filled with betrayal, hope and faith. Loaded with complex ideas that relate to current events of the day, it would be ideal for book clubs or discussion groups and is highly recommended for ages 12 and up.
Michal Hoschander Malen’s interview with Sarah Aronson can be found here.
Marcia Berneger is a retired teacher who lives with her husband and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and second grade, as well as special education. She currently teaches Torah school, in addition to her volunteer work in classrooms, libraries, and with various fundraisers. She lives in San Diego.