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

June 23, 2015 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | 5 stars, Books, Reviews

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes Review: Highly UnexpectedThe Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Published by HarperCollins Australia on June 22, 2015
Source: Publisher
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
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The Kevinian cult has taken everything from seventeen-year-old Minnow: twelve years of her life, her family, and her ability to trust.

And when Minnow rebelled, they took away her hands, too.

Now the Kevinian Prophet has been murdered and the camp set aflame and it's clear Minnow knows something. But she's not talking. As she adjusts to a life behind bars in juvenile detention, Minnow struggles to make sense of all she has been taught to believe, particularly as she dwells on 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 is willing to part with the terrible secrets of her past.

Powerful and compelling. this remarkable and brave debut novel reveals the terrible dangers of blind faith. And the importance of having faith in yourself.

A religious cult with brainwashed fanatics. A headstrong girl with no hands. Leaving one prison for another. Despite it’s subject matter, The Scared Lies of Minnow Bly avoids every single cliche with cults, disability and inmates and is one of the most powerful and compelling books I’ve read all year.

The story is highly unexpected, starting with Minnow covered in blood and being thrown into juvie. You would think a girl who has escaped from a cult, with no hands, would be victimised and submissive. But the Minnow that we know, is hardened, sinister, damaged, a force to be reckoned with. She’s arrogant and knows how to manipulate others.

I wonder if this is how the Prophet felt the moment he ordered my hands ripped from me. 

Minnow is a surprising character. Despite being severely disabled, she never plays the victim. She uses all of her means possible to protect and guard herself from her suppressors, both psychologically and mentally. It made me realise that no matter your circumstance, whether you are severely disadvantaged or disabled, that it’s all in your mindset. And although Minnow ended up being thrown into prison and she had no hands, she was never weak.

Most of the book is set in juvie which was an interesting twist. Minnow’s cell mate, Angel is one of the most feared prisoners but she quickly realises the strength in Minnow and takes her under her wing. Together, they face the other inmates, including bullies, lesbians and the ones looking for redemption. Although Angel is a criminal, she really helps Minnow heal and grow as a character.

My father once told me that all you needed to hurt someone is a single word, said just wrong enough. Anybody is capable of enormous harm, anyone with a mouth or a hand to write with. 

You know how much I love thrillers, and there’s an underlying mystery of what happened to Minnow’s cult leader and her home which is now a charred remains. The mystery kept me guessing throughout, wondering what had happened and whether Minnow was the cause of it due to her unreliable narration.

There’s a sinister feeling in the story, threaded with hope and realisation that Minnow will heal. She’s come from the sickest of places, and has been let down by her mother, her father, and everyone she’s ever loved. But she’ll experience a journey of realisation, of hope and of redemption, and learn to trust and let people in again. Slowly, we’ll hear her confessions, descending into the darkest of secrets and only then she will begin to heal. It’s a powerful journey for Minnow who has escaped from the darkest of places, and being thrown into prison will begin her healing.


The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is a thrilling, unexpected and mysterious read, offering character growth, juvie life, a disturbing religious cult and the darker moments of a girl with no hands. It’s an incredibly powerful and confronting book with an unforgettable character.

Rating: 5 out of 5 (One of the best books I’ve read all year)

Thank you to HarperCollins Australia for sending me this book for review! 

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Jeann is an Aussie YA blogger and mum who loves to read and recommend books! You can usually find me fangirling about books on my various social media channels including Twitter @happyindulgence, Instagram and Youtube.

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58 responses to “The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes Review: Highly Unexpected

    • ABsolutely, I think we love it when there's a book that's different to the usual! And it's a good thing in this case!

  1. Woww, you must have really loved this one. I've been reading so many positive reviews for this one, I don't know why I haven't picked it up yet. The mystery and thriller aspects sound amazing though, wonderful review as always 🙂

    • I really did enjoy it Benish, I have read so much YA now that when there's something different I really enjoy it you know? Thank you lovely!

    • I know, I first heard about it from the hype from Harper Collins in Australia thankfully. IT's fantastic Cyn! Hope you enjoy it.

  2. I love Minnow's strong character. I agree, she never treats herself like a victim! It's never "poor me, poor me. I've got no hands." And I really respect her! This story totally has such a sinister feel. I love the look into religion and cult life. It's fascinating and creepy. Lovely review!!

    • I know, that's one of the things I found so impressive about her character, I definitely respect her strength as well. Thank you Rach!

  3. Charnell

    This is the second rave review I have seen for this book today. I am desperate to get my hands on it now. I am definitely going to buy myself a copy as soon as I can! This sounds so good and I haven't read a book set in juvie before, so that will be interesting.

    • Yeah, I can see why you wouldn't want to read it Jen. It's an intense and disturbing read, lucky I like those sorts of things 😉

  4. danielleisbusyreading

    Thank you for your review! I've heard such amazing things about this book – I think I need to give it a try. It sounds like a really powerful and emotional story.

  5. Omg Jeann! I say YES to everything. This book is definitely a 2015 favorite. And I so agree with the unforgettable main character. I really can't help but recommend this book to EVERYONE. Brilliant review, Jeann! <3

  6. aentee @ read at midnight

    This is the second stellar review of this book I've read today. It sounds fantastic, religious fervour is one of the scariest things in the world. Thanks for sharing!

  7. I finished The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly a few hours ago, and I have to agree with you! I absolutely loved this book. Despite including so many things that could have been generalized to fit popular trends in other books, this one was completely unique, which I loved loved LOVED! (Haha I've already used the word "loved" several times. I really loved this book, though). I liked Minnow and how the story slowly revealed each lie, or in some cases, half-truth, and it's corresponding truth, like with the death of the Prophet. I'm glad you enjoyed it!
    My recent post Favorites From the 2014-15 School Year

    • So excited that everyone is loving this Claire! That's what I loved too, I've read so many books that all sound the same and this one just blasted everything out the window. I loved the twists in the book!

  8. Marianne @ Boricuan Bookworms

    Best book you've read all year? That's good enough for me!.*runs to library* Bit being completely serious, I've never disliked a book you've recommended so I'm sure I'll love this one. It's a bit ironic that she doesn't have hands, when the cover says something else, but maybe because I haven't read the book I don't understand 😛

    • Hehhe that makes me happy that my recommendations haven't let you down Marianne! I know, but then the title mentions "Lies" 😉 it's unreliable.

  9. Jeann you've got me majorly curious about this one! I'm fascinated by cults and anything relatively dark so just reading your review is making me resonate with the story. I'm definitely picking this one up!
    My recent post Extraordinary Means: Review

  10. I've heard some great things about this book, Jeann (this still feels very weird!). I love the sound of Minnow being such a brave character. And I would enjoy the sinister feel of the book too. It definitely seems like a unique story. I have this on my TBR. I'll have to find a way to snag a copy. Hopefully, my library has one.
    Great review, Jeann!

    • Hehehe I must have shocked so many people with that revelation! IT was a really intense and sinister read Nick. Hope you get a chance to read it!

  11. booksbonesbuffy

    Whoa! I always get excited when I see a 5 star review, and this is the first review I've read of this book. It sounds pretty intense, but those are usually the types of books I love best. Can't wait to get my hands on this one! Awesome review, Jeann!
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  12. I'm so glad this is a great book. I've loved the sound of it ever since I read the synopsis last year I think so I definitely can't wait.

  13. Oooh so I just finished this yesterday and while I adored Minnow, I just felt like something didn't click with me. The hatred for the cult was there, but it was a lot tamer than I expected. Hard to explain since what the Prophet did was awful, but ugh…I don't know how to articulate my thoughts just yet. Glad you loved it though Jeann!

  14. confessionsfr

    This is one of my favourites books for this year as well. I loved this book and it wasn't anything like I expected either. Your review summed up a lot what I felt about Minnow, I loved her! I will be curious to see what the author writes next. There is going to be high expectations after this book

    • So glad you loved it as much as I did Tash! Minnow was really unexpected, loved her character. I'm definitely keen as well!

  15. AHHH I NEED TO READ THIS. I saw "cult" initially and ran far away (because I'm mostly just opposed to cultish stories. they don't do anything for me!) But this?! THIS SOUNDS EPIC. The juvie setting, and the friendships and the mystery/thriller aspect. *rapidly adds to tbr*

  16. HOW GOOD WAS IT, THOUGH? Everyone's been saying how it's come out of the blue. I was excited for it even last year because of my obsessive Goodreads list-watching, but still, I didn't expect to love it as much as I did. So yay for that 😀