Reading a book like this is what makes me miss working in a branch - I want to put this book in someone's hands because I had such a good time reading it.
Evolution, Me & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande is really a pretty typical YA problem novel - Mena, ashamed of the actions of her church friends, writes a letter that exposes them to a lawsuit, and leaves Mena starting high school, like Melinda in Speak, ostracized and the target of harassment by her former friends, made worse by their in-class boycott of a unit on evolution. Over the first few weeks of school, a dynamic biology teacher and a cute lab partner help Mena find a way to reconcile faith and science.
Sure, it's not perfect; the charismatic minister and the two-faced members of the youth group are maybe a little too evil, and Mena's parents are two dimensional (although this does reflect the way they've let their anger freeze out their daughter). But Mena's voice is so true, so real, without resorting to chatspeak or pop culture references that are passe before the book sees print. The first person narrative keeps the pace moving while Mena struggles with her emerging feelings for Casey, her lab partner, and learns that she can maintain her deep faith without the structure of a church, a similar resolution to Margaret Peterson Haddix's Leaving Fishers.
Mena is the reason that this book succeeds for me. She jumps right off the page, and I love that her guilty rebellion entails playing with the puppies at Casey's house and watching the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, rather than the usual bad behavior of the Gossip Girl or A-List variety.