The members of Mary-Eve Hamilton’s family, participants in the Waiting for the Rapture End Times Tabernacle, take religious extremism to a whole new level. Mary-Eve’s mother is a famed prophet who regularly has visions and conveys messages from God, while her father is a popular deacon who hides his true, violent nature. And then there’s the teenaged Mary-Eve (named for Mary, the mother of Christ, and Eve, the mother of mankind), whose journey takes her to much darker places than your average coming-of-age story.
Mixing ample servings of sex, religion, and the supernatural, The First Principles of Dreaming is prolific young-adult author Beth Goobie’s first novel for adults. Even though it’s a story of teenage rebellion, the book (a twist on the Persephone myth) is definitely not for a younger crowd.
Mary-Eve’s story contains two streams. The first is of her religious life with her family, where she struggles to fulfil the role of the dutiful child. The other details her complicated friendship with Dee Eccles, a sex-crazed pagan girl who rechristens Mary-Eve as Jezebel (Jez for short). While the two stories seem frustratingly disparate at first (especially given that the family sections focus on Mary-Eve’s childhood, whereas the Jez storyline occurs in the narrative present), the two eventually merge.
Goobie often turns to vivid imagery and twisted metaphors, with mixed success. While her comparisons sometimes convey an effortlessly creepy vibe, at other points they clash awkwardly with the subject matter. After a disturbing rape scene, for instance, Goobie describes the victim’s reaction: “she started crying again, tears pouring from her eyes like an upended box of Smarties.” This simile is extremely disjointed following such a traumatic event, pulling the reader away from the emotional moment. Even ignoring the obvious inappropriateness, Goobie’s image is better suited to a novel for teens, not a novel about youth meant for adults.