TEEN LIBRARIAN'S REVIEW:
It's rare to find a teen novel that raises serious questions about religion while still managing to wring a few well-earned chuckles from the reader along the way. Well done, Pete Hautman!
"Godless," as the title may indicate, gives us the story of Jason Bock, a 16 year old who is questioning not just his parents' faith but the very idea of religion. After a run-in at the local water tower with the scrawny bully Henry Stagg, Jason has a revelation — what would happen if he began worshipping the water tower? Could the "Church of the Ten-Legged One" (CTO) catch on as something more than a joke? Even if it doesn't, is there merit to Jason's argument that he doesn't have to be a believer to be serious about his religion?
The CTO thus begins as both a prank, and, on another level, as a means of challenging what Jason perceives as the unthinking faith of others. His snail-loving, bookish best friend, Shin, quickly latches onto the new religion, and soon goes from writing the sacred text to channeling voices and acting in an increasingly disturbed fashion. New CTO converts also include Dan, an authority-loving follower; Magda, a reckless waitress who may or may not have feelings for Jason; and, of all people, Henry Stagg.
I won't reveal any other plot points here, although you folks out there should know that there is indeed plenty of action for a book about profound life questions. Even better, as I mentioned above, there's plenty of humor, too. Jason, who is a huge, sweaty, self-depricating guy, can be hysterical at times, particularly when he is reimagining himself as a stealthy ninja or a tortured prisoner. He usually has a witty quip, or at least a silly joke, at the tip of his tongue, making it easy for the reader to like and identify with him. I enjoyed how the humor added considerable levity to what otherwise might have been a weighty, abstract novel.
There's a minor bit of foul language here, but otherwise "Godless" seems like a good middle school read, especially for boys. If you're looking for a short book that will make you laugh and perhaps ask yourself some hard questions about faith and religion, then "Godless" is for you.