Score: 92/100 (9.2 out of 10)
Cult Girls is a colorfully-illustrated, eye-opening graphic novel about the lives of people who suffered while under the insidious control of organized religion.
Specifically, this book is highly critical of the Jehovah Witness religion (often abbreviated “JW”). However, it can be argued that this is a book that could be read by people who've suffered under numerous “cult-like” groups from religious organizations to political and diet cults. Yes, political and diet cults also exist. Even some pop culture fandoms can be cult-like, dogmatic, and toxic.
Interestingly, we just read a book (The Little Toy Car) about one man's experience of growing up being controlled by a supposedly-Christian cult and abused by his hyperreligious step-father. These are sadly and tragically experiences that are familiar to many people.
It's extra agitating since the travesties in this book (and The Little Toy Car) occurred under the banner of Christianity, supposedly in the name of God. This is an embarrassment and a shame to most true followers of Jesus' teachings, similar to how Al-Qaeda terrorists are an embarrassment and shame to most Muslims. Religious people are not wicked or evil, at least not most of them. Unfortunately, a cult-like or mob-like mentality combined with the accompanying dogmatism and indoctrination of extremists in these groups can cause people to act in despicable ways.
This book successfully highlights several dark sides of the religion.
We want to say this: some of us are Christians (or are religious) and are sympathetic to the Jehovah Witness faith. There are a lot of good people in that church who mean well and truly love God, Jesus, and their fellow man. Many of them do participate in charities. Some of them even organize and hold holiday parties (ex. on Christmas and Thanksgiving Day)! We've experienced and attended a few, believe it or not. The organizers were still heavily involved in the church and not openly shunned.
Many JWs, believe it or not, actually get blood transfusions and other invasive medical procedure. Since some of us are in the medical field, we can attest to that, though Pearson textbooks still mention that these JW restrictions exist, usually alongside mentions of beef restrictions for Hindus and pork restrictions for Muslims and Jews.
We even know a JW who is also a Biology teacher, so they exist.
With all that said, we acknowledge that the JW organization, similar to others like the Catholic and LDS churches, has some glaring faults and issues. Human beings will be human beings. Power corrupts. The instinctual desire to command and control exists.
The problem is, when evil and immoral acts are committed in the name of God, it actually breaks the third commandment of the Bible and the Tanakh. It commits evil in the name of God. It takes his name in vain. So, when so-called “Christians” and “believers” do things like act hypocritically, take advantage of minors, torture, murder, and do other such things, they are actually breaking their own commandments and dishonoring God, whether deliberately or unintentionally.
Now, we don't see or read about torture or murder in this book. It's not a book about the inquisition.
However, we do see leaders in the JW organization act hypocritically and also maliciously toward others.
In particularly, the church leaders are often shown to be prone to anger, rage, and wrath. They're shown as being unforgiving of each and every alleged transgression that their members (primarily the women) commit. It's frustrating to see how members are persecuted, shamed, and treated terribly for the littlest of transgressions (or alleged transgressions).
For example, according to this book, a member can be excommunicated after getting a divorce, having an abortion, or even just missing a church meeting. Imagine that!
You can really sense the oppression in the air, especially with the nigh-tyrannical church elders (as presented).
The book mostly follows Talia Grey, a blonde-haired, glowing, beautiful JW who is heavily criticized and threatened by the church leadership after having a divorce. Talia meets Alan, an Iranian immigrant and medical professional, outside of the church. It turns out that attending a wedding, much less having a wedding, outside the church is forbidden. Well, Talia can't see a life without Alan, someone she shares a lot in common with.
Another major character in this book is Rosa, the red-haired Hispanic bombshell who finds herself in an unhappy marriage with Ian, a man we soon learn is actually gay. Now, we actually did not like Rosa at the beginning of this book, and that dislike lasted quite a long time. The way she treats Ian and bullies him over having gay porn is really harsh and seemingly unnecessary. It's not like he explicitly cheated on her (with another woman or guy). He just explored his sexuality privately. Now, it could be argued that this shows how the church equips people to be bigoted against certain groups of people, but Rosa should share some responsibility for the way she acted.
This book is incredibly colorful and bright. For the most part, we loved the illustrations by Cassandre Bolan. In fact, the illustrations are really the highlight of this book. They're so bright and so colorful that it kinda reminds us of being in Las Vegas at night! The thing is that it can sometimes be hard to follow at times. Even as comic book readers, there were times when the wordiness and rapidity of events flew by us and went over our heads. It's really dense, especially for a book like this.
Also, this book isn't so much a single comprehensive, linear story, it's more like a series of vignettes. One scene after another after another happens, usually following a different group of characters in a completely different situation. Sometimes scenes ended just when we were getting into them. All of them seem to serve the point of highlighting life inside versus outside of the church.
Check it out on Amazon!