If Henry Stagg would not have hit him, Jason Bock would not have been lying on his back staring up at his town’s water tower. And if he would not have looked up at the water tower, he may never have gotten the idea to create a new religion built around his newly created god, the Ten-Legged One. But when he does, he recruits a strange mix into the fold—his buddy Shin, a collector of snails and other gastropods, cute Magda Price, the preacher’s son Dan, and the bully Henry.
The five of them create an uneasy alliance that reflects their general restlessness and willingness to embrace a radical idea just to shake things up. Jason in particular is questioning his belief in God, especially as his dad has an unwavering faith and requires Jason to attend teen classes at their church. He wonders that with all the religions in the world how anyone can know that theirs is right. It’s the next leap he takes—that it’s better to make up your own—that get’s the ball rolling for creating sacraments, commandments and converts. Soon, they are all taking the risk of climbing to the top of the tower to worship their new god.
Jason realizes that he is no longer in control of what he has created. Shin in particular seems to be caught up in the fervor of it all as he writes out a scripture for the new church, and tension builds between the members. Can their issues be resolved without anyone getting hurt?
Godless by Pete Hautman is a thoughtful book that examines religious belief, the sway that peer pressure and suggestion holds over teens, and the risky behavior they may undertake because of that pressure. Readers will be inspired to look at their own beliefs about God and religion and think about why they hold those beliefs. It’s a bold subject for mother-daughter book clubs to take on, but those that do may find possibilities for rich discussion. I recommend Godless for groups with girls aged 14 and up.