Book Review – Icon: A Novel
Book Review, Children, Literary, November 2023

Book Review – Icon: A Novel

By Jane Valencia

On Thursdays, I head across the water to an Eastern Catholic church where I am learning how to write (paint) icons – sacred images in the Orthodox tradition considered to be “windows into heaven.” I also happen to love juvenile and young adult fiction. Imagine my delight when I found “Icon: A Novel,” on one of the church bookshop shelves.

“Icon: A Novel” by Georgia Briggs, is a dystopian Orthodox Christian novel set in near-future America, where Christianity is outlawed, and 12-year-old Euphrosyne, suffers the horrific loss of family and religious community. The authorities are intent on convincing her to leave her faith behind, to embrace a new name and the touted ideals of the regime – that of happiness and choosing whatever she wants for herself (but not religion).

Yet, Euphrosyne can’t quite give it all up, especially since an icon dramatically saved her life. Along the way are many heart-breaking challenges, including dealing with her own trauma, and many moments when she is confused as she meets up with the ideology of the new “Era of Tolerance.” Aspects of the book reminded me very much of Lois Lowry’s “The Giver” (and indeed that book is mentioned within this tale).

I love the references to books throughout this book. One character, Mimi, is a librarian intent on saving certain books, and many of those books are ones I have treasured. I especially love the spiritual aspects that arise unexpectedly throughout “Icon,” particularly toward the end, as well as the details of Orthodoxy. There’s some profound beauty in these pages! Once finished, I immediately reread the book to more fully soak it in.

“Icon” is a compelling book, both sad and amazing in various ways. While not dwelt upon in fierce detail, it does have violence and even torture, so please look through the book before passing it on to a youth who may be sensitive to these aspects of the plot. That said, I found myself reflecting deeply about spiritual strength and martyrdom, and, in our secular times, that is a strange and worthy reflection indeed. This book provides some awesome expression of how it might play out in an ordinary American life, to hold fast to sacred truth, even while enduring the worst.

If you enjoy or are open to faith-based fiction, are intrigued by Orthodox Christianity, and you like young adult dystopian novels, I recommend this book. Underscored recommendation if you are a fan of Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” or Lois Lowry’s “The Giver.” This is a fast read: upon reaching the end, you may find that, like me, you can’t help but flip the book over and start in on it again.

November 8, 2023

About Author

jane Jane writes about what it means to be an Islander, and how we can nourish healthy community. A harper, storyteller, and herbalist, she also shares tales and art that she is sure the Island told her. Having lived with her family on Vashon for 20+ years, she is convinced of the Island's magic.