Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes

Review: The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly
by Stephanie Oakes

Genres: Contemporary, Psychological, Religion, Drama, Horror, Young Adult, Mystery
Publication date: 9 June 2015
by Harpercollins

Format: Paperback


Amazon | Book Depository

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.

I love books that are difficult to group into a genre, so it’s little wonder that I enjoyed The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. In a publishing landscape filled with quirky teens, fantasy world or dystopic wasteland, this book stands apart in its unique setting and dark psychological streak.

Forget about Snow White or Cinderella or other mainstream princesses, this retelling stems from the sinister The Girl Without Hands. Like its origin story, the book is rich in allusions to sins and violence against the innocent. The tale also deviates very creatively from its source material, taking place in a modern day juvenile prison with flashbacks to a cult in the woods. Although it has a contemporary setting, the book maintains strong imagery from the fairy tale: ranging from silver hands, to cruel negligent parents, to an angel in the woods. This allows the story to straddle the fine line between realistic and fantastic.

MinnowBly02The force propelling the novel along is a visceral and violent mystery. We know that Minnow Bly hails from a cult, she grew up away from civilisation since a young age – the rest of her people utterly enchanted by The Prophet. At the start of the novel, we find out that Minnow is on trial for a horrific act of violence – and there’s the question about the dead Prophet and the burned down community. Minnow has these answers, it’s revealed to us little by little through her interactions with her cellmate and an FBI detective. Thanks to the writing style and the unreliability of Minnow’s narration, the book was a gripping read.


While supernatural elements were largely absent in this book, I can’t regard The Prophet and his brainwashed followers with anything other than horror. Through Minnow’s flashbacks, we see chilling lies taken as gospel – lies that allows old men to wed teenage girls. We also see the horrific corporal punishment that non-believers go through, including some excruciating details on Minnow’s own experiences. Though we only saw flashes of the cult, it was enough to unsettle.


The coming of age tale is vital across the YA genre, and this book more than anything is about Minnow’s journey to discover herself. Plagued by the false teachings of The Prophet for most of her life, Minnow has to slowly discover for herself what she believes in. Her interactions with the FBI Detective and her cell mate, Angel – as well as her memories of Jude – are vital to these developments. The book is filled with uneasy friendships and has a strong heart at its core, despite the horrifying things happening throughout the novel. Minnow’s journey is by no means easy, but it’s definitely a rewarding one to watch.


For once, I actually have to agree with the marketing tagline: the book will definitely appeal to fans of Orange Is The New Black. Meaning, it will appeal to all those who are fans of fleshed out female characters. I love the complex relationship between Minnow and Angel, starting out from distrust and morphing into something the readers could wholly be invested in. The book also commentates on the corruption of the justice system, and on how some things in life refuses to be black or white.

Minnow Bly is a book that examines human relationships and psychology in all its gnarly details. It will make you squirm, it will make you angry, it might even make you cry – I therefore highly recommend it!

Rating Report
Overall: 4.4

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I'm Aentee, a 20-something lover of books and shiny things. By day, I attempt to prescribe books to all the patients in my optometry clinic. By night, I read books, watch TV, and spend way too much time on twitter.


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  1. says

    You need to stop with your AMAZING reviews, Aentee! This sounds so good. I’ve had my eyes on it for a while now, but I always keep forgetting about it, but thank you! I’ll be sure to look it up and purchase a copy asap.
    I love how dark and twisted the story seems. And your description of it being similar to OISTNB with a twist has definitely intrigued me. And a dark fairy tale retelling! I’ve been waiting for something like this for so long!!
    Great review, Aentee! :)
    Nick @ Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist recently posted…Audiobook Series Review: Penryn & the End of Days by Susan EeMy Profile

  2. says

    I love a genre smorgasbord! Gosh you made this sound like I need it right now. I did enter a ton of giveaways for it, but kind of forgot about it after. Thanks for reminding me about it. I think I will put it on my list for the after Christmas ebook sale Amazon always has. I hope it is on thier list! :)
    La La in the Library recently posted…2015 HO-HO-HO READ-A-THONMy Profile

  3. says

    GIRL, you sure know how to review a book! I purchased TSOMB when it first released, but for some reason I didn’t want to read it until the weather was chilly lol. Yes, I told myself not to read this until the fall season, so now that it is here, I’ll be picking this up soon. Some books, atleast for me, have a seasonal feel to them, and this definitely screamed fall and winter! I actually didn’t know it was a re-telling of The Girl Without Hands! I so can’t wait to dive in!
    Tika recently posted…Air Awakens + Fire Falling ARC Review – The Epic DUOMy Profile

  4. says

    This one sounds so amazing! It was the dark and creepy premise that drew me into buying this one, and I’m glad to hear that it won’t disappoint on that aspect! I really wasn’t aware that it was a mystery though, which has me even more intrigued! I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed this book, and it makes me wish I was at home so I could start reading it now.
    Ten @ Inherently Bookish recently posted…Bookish Thoughts| Childhood FavouritesMy Profile

  5. says

    I loved this book, and your review! I so agree on so many of the aspects you mentioned, about how it’s a horror and a mystery and also a fairytale, AND a coming of age story. I actually didn’t pay as much attention to the fantastical portion during the read, but I can totally see it. And I loved how the unreliable narration added to it, until you didn’t know what was real and what was fiction. I especially loved the way the story was told and how strong the MC was, and how she went about finding her voice. And I just adored the relationship between Minnow and Angel! Great review, Aentee!
    Holly J recently posted…#TheShelfieHopMy Profile