Skip to main content
Trade Books For Courses Tradebooks for Courses

The Chosen One

A Novel

Carol Lynch Williams

St. Martin's Griffin

The Chosen One Download image

ISBN10: 0312627750
ISBN13: 9780312627751

Trade Paperback

240 Pages



Request Desk Copy
Request Exam Copy


Sign up to receive information about new books, author events, and special offers.

Sign up now

An American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults
A YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
The Association of Mormon Letters Best Young Adult Novel of the Year
Recommended by The New England Children's Booksellers Association
Winner of the Whitney Award for Best Youth Fiction

Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father's three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. But she has started to wonder if her life could be different. Determined to follow her heart, Kyra secretly visits the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books. At night, she meets with a boy, one she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her. But the Prophet decrees that Kyra must marry her own uncle, a 60-year-old man who already has six wives. Though she faces danger and is afraid she will lose her family, Kyra must make a desperate choice before her future is decided by the sect.


Praise for The Chosen One

"'If I was going to kill the Prophet,' I say, not even keeping my voice low, 'I'd do it in Africa.' That arrestingly offbeat meditation is the opening line of The Chosen One and our first introduction to Kyra, 13, who lives on a religious compound in the middle of a desert. Kyra feels guilty about many things: her fantasy of killing Prophet Childs and letting termites chew away the evidence; her habit of hiding in a tree behind her family's trailer to read forbidden books like Bridge to Terabithia; her crush on Joshua Johnson, the blue-eyed boy who asks her for piano lessons. But Kyra is soon faced with bigger worries. Prophet Childs declares that she must become the seventh wife of her cruel 60-year-old uncle, Apostle Hyrum. She's horrified. Should she marry him, sacrificing her freedom and happiness for her family's good name? Or should she escape, leaving behind 20 beloved siblings, three mothers and her gentle father? Williams, herself a Mormon, unveils life among the Chosen (a fictitious theocracy) with spare, evocative writing and an honest sense of character that helps bridge the rift between Kyra's world and ours. In one scene her family takes her off the compound to buy fabric for her wedding dress, and they stop for lunch at Applebee's. Everyone gawks at them, and readers, most of us at least, are likely to be jolted by recognizing ourselves among the gawkers. On occasion, Williams stretches plausibility. (Could Kyra's furtive visits to a mobile library, where it stops just outside the compound, escape notice where every soul is under lock and key?) But thankfully, the nuanced ending—Kyra is free, but freedom isn't easy—feels just right."—Jessica Bruder, The New York Times

"This book will shock and anger you, and most importantly, freak you out because it is based on a real-life story. The book quickly moves from peaceful moments on the compound to fast-paced action as Kyra learns about the very dark side of The Chosen Ones. This book is thought provoking and compelling and you will be frantically flipping the pages until you discover Kyra's fate."—Justine Magazine

"I believed the characters and found Kyra's inner struggles very authentic . . . Even secondary characters emerge as real as they engage with Kyra and each other. The conflicts are vivid and well delineated—and pretty scary and timely. But it also respects the close and loving connections that clearly draw the people of faith together. Writing about religion in books for teens is the final frontier and I'm glad she tackled the topic—and with a strong story that will get kids thinking and talking."—Sylvia M. Vardell, Ph.D., Professor, School of Library & Information Studies, Texas Woman's University and author of Children's Literature in Action: A Librarian's Guide

"In powerful, understated prose, Williams writes a compelling view of a dark and disturbing world where the leader of a polygamous sect can simultaneously preach good and practice evil. But its real power comes from seeing this walled-off world through the eyes of thirteen-year-old Kyra Carlson, who desperately wants to be good yet realizes that the demand for heavenly obedience is only a mask for earthly control. No one can get inside the head and heart of a 13-year-old girl better than Carol Lynch Williams, and I mean no one. Kyra is a complex and completely believable mix of loving daughter, devoted big sister, boy-smitten teenager, terrified bride-to-be (within weeks she will be given to her 60-year-old uncle as his seventh wife), and reluctant heroine who shows there is always hope. Knowing her is worth the whole trip."—James S. Jacobs, Professor of Children's Literature, Brigham Young University and co-author of Children's Literature, Briefly

"In the Compound, in the belly of the Temple, God has revealed to the Prophet Child that 13-year-old Kyra is to wed her father's older brother, Uncle Hyrum. She will be his seventh wife in the Lord. This leads to rebellion as Kyra loves Joshua. What is marriage without love or trust? The Chosen One is a modern day ‘Romeo and Juliet' set in the religious compound controlled by the Prophet Child. Choices have to be made, but at what sacrifice? A compelling novel filled with family loyalty, love, tragedy, drama and adventure."—Terry Young, West Jefferson High School, Harvey, Louisiana

"A chilling and thought-provoking story about what happens when religion turns 'evil' and the 'good' is in those who try to escape it. This is Kyra's story. Let her into your heart. You will never forget her."—Pat Scales, Director of Library Services, the South Carolina Governor's School for Arts and Humanities; and President, Association for Library Service to Children

"Carol Lynch Williams' chilling novel of life in a polygamous sect is both harrowing in its unsparing realism and hopeful in its reaffirmation of the power that books and reading have to change and redeem lives at risk. An important book, sure to provoke spirited discussion."—Michael Cart, former president, Young Adult Library Services Association

"An exciting and compelling read . . . The Chosen One is a suspenseful, exciting, even shocking YA novel that gives an inside view of a story that is just becoming known to those of us living in mainstream U.S. society and I would happily recommend it to anyone."—Angelica Carpenter, Curator, The Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children's Literature, California State University, Fresno

"I was unable to put it down. The horrifying events of the narrative compel the reader to confront the gruesome situation. Freedom versus restrictions, independence versus domination, justice versus righteousness, honesty versus duplicity, individualism versus conformity, autonomy versus dependency—these are all the things Kyra must confront. The hope that books and reading bring Kyra helps her make difficult choices and brings about a paradigm shift in her beliefs thus allowing her to initiate the process of bringing her dreams to realization."—Carole D. Fiore, Former President of the Association for Library Service to Children

"The pacing is excellent, and the mounting tension of the novel makes for a compelling read . . . The elements of music, nature, solitude, and the intense teenage self-absorption that helps drive Kyra to defy her community are hallmarks of the best kind of writing for teens, elements that raise the storytelling above the ordinary."—Walter Mayes, co-author of Valerie & Walter's Best Books for Children

"Perhaps inspired by the Texas polygamous community (or HBO's Big Love), the book is neither superficial nor sensational. It's an important book and a universal story about gender roles . . . Williams adds such depth to the story by the picture she draws of this loving, if outside the norm, family and underscores how difficult it is for Kyra to decide to leave."—Barbara Kiefer, Charlotte S. Huck Professor of Children's Literature, The Ohio State University

"In April, millions of Americans watched as Child Protection Services removed over 400 children from a polygamous compound in Texas. Included among those removed were many young girls who were ‘plural wives' of older men. No doubt many wondered what would happen to young girls who refused ‘the call' to marry old men. Carol Lynch Williams' The Chosen One tells such a story, describing the experiences of one thirteen-year-old who resists being forced to marry her father's sixty-year-old brother. This was a book that I could not put down!"—Terrell A. Young, Professor of Literacy Education, Washington State University

"The author has captured the intensity of a girl enslaved by her culture—truly horrifying but engrossing at the same time!"—Jana Fine, Tuscaloosa Public Library, Alabama

"The novel has one of the most compelling opening lines possible and for many young readers this will be their first experience reading about the dark aspects of polygamy . . . This is, however, much more than just a ‘flight from polygamy' novel. Kyra is a strong young woman who finds strength and solace in the books she gets from the Ironton County Bookmobile. Through Kyra, Williams raises questions that each of us must answer—when do we depart from the tenets of our parents to do what we think is right for ourselves?"—Jeanette Larson, book review editor, ParentWise, Austin, Texas

"The Chosen One makes the heart race, the teeth grind, and the brow bead up in sweat. Carol Lynch Williams presents a first-person narrative that gallops just behind—or perhaps in advance of—contemporary headlines about the manipulation of the innocent. I could choose no other book or newspaper until I had finished the final page."—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and A Lion Among Men

"A powerful and heartbreaking novel of love and hope. One girl's poignant journey as she struggles to find herself and, ultimately, the truth."—Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries and Airhead

"The Chosen One is absolutely riveting and perfectly formed. I had planned to read just a few pages one evening before bed, and I ended up staying awake until four in the morning to finish it! It's a wonderful book."—Cynthia Kadohata, winner of the 2005 Newbery Medal for Kira-Kira

"In this extraordinary story, Carol Lynch Williams probes the deepest wells of the heart. Against the intertwining prism of faith and love she gives us Kyra, a young woman who meets head-on the power of both to simultaneously buoy and corrupt the human spirit. The Chosen One is brave, its plumb is true, it's a masterpiece."—Kathi Appelt, author of The Underneath, Finalist for the 2008 National Book Award for Young People's Literature

"Powerful and unforgettable, The Chosen One will break your heart because its story is all too real."—David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife

"Truly thought provoking, heartfelt and just a plain old good read about a culture and religion that we know very little about these days except through the media."—An Na, author of A Step From Heaven, winner of the 2002 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature

"An unsettling and courageous story about one girl who sacrifices everything familiar in her search for freedom—physical freedom and, more importantly, freedom of the heart and mind. Though the book is chilling from page one, Carol Lynch Williams' economic and poetic use of language makes this potentially sensational story somehow beautiful, compassionate, and full of hope in the midst of tremendous loss. This is not a black and white exposé of cults, but a complex exploration of the ties that bind us to places and people that hurt us, the wrenching decisions we sometimes must make in order to survive, and the saving power of the truth, no matter how difficult it may be to bear."—Sara Zarr, author of the 2007 National Book Award Finalist Story of a Girl

"The emotional authenticity of this glimpse into the inner life of a polygamous cult makes this novel a fascinating read . . . The complexity of Kyra's struggle to free herself leads to some breathless suspense in an intelligent adventure novel that rivals Robert O'Brien's classic Z for Zachariah. Absolutely terrific!"—Patty Campbell, winner of the 2001 ALAN Award, given by the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents for outstanding contributions to young adult literature

"Imagine Anna Quindlen or Sue Miller turning her attention to writing a young adult novel, and you have an idea what author Carol Lynch Williams has done for early teen readers. The 'Chosen One' is Kyra Leigh, an utterly believable girl who will walk right into your heart, but she's also going to provide insight into a closely guarded way of life that may be happening near you. Spare, direct, and startling, Kyra Leigh's story is one every young woman should hear, not only to confirm her own sense of self, but to inspire understanding and compassion for those who don't have the strength to make that choice. Be forewarned; this book is a compulsive read."—Audrey Couloumbis, author of the 2000 Newbery Honor Book Getting Near to Baby

"Which Kyra will she be? The almost fourteen-year-old who sneaks library books and adores her sisters and frets over Mother Sarah's pregnancy and wants sweet Joshua for her own? Or the almost fourteen-year-old who the Prophet has decreed must marry her cruel old uncle, to become his seventh wife? In a voice as intimate as a whisper, yet fierce as a pounding drum, Carol Lynch Williams offers the most compelling of young heroines, one who must sacrifice all, if she's to choose a life for herself. A timely story, rendered with great sensitivity, and a poetic, penetrating, heart-wrenching, and ultimately inspiring read."—Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize and Eternal

"With its skilled writing, a narrator you root for, and its compelling glimpse into a secret world, The Chosen One satisfies."—Deb Caletti, author of the 2004 National Book Award Finalist Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

"Carol Lynch Williams' razor-sharp emotional detail cuts deep into the reader's heart. No one can read this story and not experience an overflow of empathy for Kyra's complicated and seemingly hopeless circumstances. Her triumphant survival is a tribute to Kyra's inner strength and to Williams' uncanny insight into the buoyancy of the human soul."—Chris Crowe, author of Mississippi Trial, winner of the International Reading Association's Young Adult Book Award, and the Jane Addams Honor Book Getting Away with Murder

"Williams captures the strong family ties developed within a closed religious order and the anguish that comes in breaking those ties when leaving a sect. Kyra's brave decision is always tempered with an incredible sense of loss—loss of family, childhood, and a familiar way of life."—Betty Carter, editor of the first two editions of the American Library Association's Best Books for Young Adults

"Carol Lynch Williams explores the complexities of polygamy in unexpected ways, crafting a gripping tale that is all at once harrowing, tragic, full of love and hopeful. A powerful read!"—Candace Fleming, author of the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults Ben Franklin's Almanac and Our Eleanor

"I found it to be both disturbing and compelling because the story was so believable . . . It was very much a book that goes beyond the ripped from the headlines conceit to explore the role of an individual within a religion and personal choices, very much a coming of age story for older teens."—Amy Sears, Teaneck Public Library, New Jersey

"A beautifully crafted novel that compels readers to consider issues which are as timeless as they are universal. At what price obedience? At what cost submission? Note-perfect in her portrayal of polygamy, Williams captures one girl's valiant struggle to find her own identity in the midst of a culture bent on stamping it out. Lyrical writing, vivid characters, and a chilling, climatic ending make this book a must-read for teens and adults alike!"—Alane Ferguson, Edgar Award–winning author of Show Me the Evidence

"Intensely gripping and grippingly intense . . . Kyra's terrible dilemma—escaping her fate means betraying her family—is heartbreakingly real, and the final scenes are riveting and suspenseful."—Kirkus Reviews

"This is a heart pounder, and readers will be held, especially as the danger escalates. Williams' portrayals of the family are sharp, but what's most interesting about this book is how the yearnings and fears of a character so far from what most YAs know will still seem familiar and close."—Ilene Cooper, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams--Audiobook Excerpt

Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Carol Lynch Williams' young adult novel The Chosen One. Thirteen-year-old Kyra has grown up in an isolated polygamous community without questioning her father's three wives and her twenty brothers and sisters. Or at least without questioning them much—if you don't count her secret visits to the Mobile Library on Wheels to read forbidden books, or her meetings with the boy she hopes to choose for herself instead of having a man chosen for her.

About the author

Carol Lynch Williams

Carol Lynch Williams is the author of young adult novels including Miles from Ordinary. The Chosen One was named one of 2010 ALA's "Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers" and "Best Books for Young Adult Readers." It also won the Whitney and the Association of Mormon Letters awards for the best young adult fiction of the year, as well as numerous other honors. Williams was the winner of the 2009 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship. She grew up in Florida and now lives in Utah.

Laura Lamando

Carol Lynch Williams

Official Links