> Skip to content
About the book
  • Published: 26 August 2015
  • ISBN: 9781775537670
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children's
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

Being Magdalene




The gripping sequel to the award-winning and bestselling YA novels I am not Esther and I am Rebecca.

The gripping sequel to the award-winning and bestselling YA novels I am not Esther and I am Rebecca.

In this breathtaking follow-up to I am not Esther and I am Rebecca, Fleur Beale revisits the Pilgrim family and its closed religious community, The Children of the Faith.

Four years have passed since Rebecca ran away. The community simmers with tension and rumours of an approaching split, and life has become terrifying for Rebecca’s remaining siblings as Elder Stephen seizes any chance to take revenge on them. Twelve-year-old Magdalene lives in fear that her strong-willed little sister, Zillah, will be his next target.

The girls have run out of people who can protect them. To Zillah their path is clear but Magdalene is torn. How can she cause more hurt and shame for her parents? But, equally, how can she face a life with no freedom to be herself?

And another question scares her most of all. Without the elders’ suffocating rules that tell her how to live, who would Magdalene be?

  • Pub date: 26 August 2015
  • ISBN: 9781775537670
  • Imprint: RHNZ Children's
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 320
  • RRP: $19.99

About the Author

Fleur Beale

Fleur Beale is the author of many award-winning books for children and young adults — she has now had more than 40 books published in New Zealand, as well as being published in the United States and England. Beale is the only writer to have twice won the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award for a Much-Loved Book: with Slide the Corner in 2007, and I Am Not Esther in 2009. She won the Esther Glen Award for distinguished contribution to children’s literature for Juno of Taris in the 2009 LIANZA Children’s Book Awards. Fierce September won the YA category in the 2011 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards and the LIANZA Young Adult Award in 2011. In 2012 she won the Margaret Mahy Medal for her outstanding contribution to children’s writing and in 2015 she was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 1999, Beale was Dunedin College of Education’s Writer in Residence. A former high-school teacher, Beale lives in Wellington.

One of Beale’s most well-known books is I Am Not Esther, the story of a girl who is sent to live with relatives who are members of a strict religious cult. It’s a gripping psychological thriller that won an Honour Award in the 1999 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards and features in the latest volume of 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up, produced by UK publisher Quintessence. It was reissued in 2012 and has been in print since first published. Magpies identified it as a novel that ‘will have relevance wherever there are attempts to control the minds and emotions of children’.

The sequel, I Am Rebecca, was published in 2014 to much acclaim — it was named a 2015 Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction book; was shortlisted for the New Zealand Post Book Awards for Children and Young Adults Young Adult category, and won the LIANZA Librarian's Choice Award. In a review for the Otago Daily Times, Rene Nol wrote that, ‘Good writing can reveal our prejudices as being the shallow things they are. Really good writing does that and entertains the reader at the same time. Such is the case with New Zealand author Fleur Beale's latest book, I am Rebecca...This is a tension-filled, thrilling read that affirms genuine belief while exposing hypocrisy.’
Being Magdalene followed in 2015, bringing the series to a riveting conclusion. Awarding the novel five out of five stars for Tearaway, Tierney Reardon avowed that ‘Magdalene is my favourite book in the series; the ending seemed to tie things off so perfectly’, and in a featured review for the New Zealand Listener Ann Packer judged that ‘The remarkable success of I Am Not Esther and its sequels lies in Beale's insightful ability to see shades between black and white…While exposing the hypocrisy of those Elders claiming divine guidance, Beale allows other church adults to show compassion, wisdom and discernment in a fine balance.’ Being Magdalene was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award in 2016.

The bulk of Beale’s writing is set in the contemporary world. Topics range from boys who fix up an old car to bash around a paddock with, a girl who must take over her father’s business until he’s well enough to take back the reins, to a story about a 15-year-old boy who is a top kart racer.

The New Zealand Listener has called Beale ‘one of the most consistently accomplished and versatile writers for teenagers in the country’.

A ‘strong storyteller’ (Trevor Agnew, The Press) who is ‘consistently engaging’ (Frances Grant, Weekend Herald), Beale is a popular participant in the Writers in School programme, testifying that she is ‘in touch with the modern young market’ (Northern Advocate).

Her entry in The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature noted that her characters are ‘intensely aware of their difficulties, social troubles and shortcomings’, and in so doing she exhibits ‘her understanding of teenagers, male and female, and ability to motivate even reluctant readers’.

Acclaimed as ‘a riveting futuristic story’, in the National Library’s Services to Schools review, Juno of Taris was likened to Bernard Beckett’s Genesis and the ‘classic’ The Giver by Lois Lowry. The reviewer concluded: ‘it is a brilliant story that completely enthralled me’.

The sequel, Fierce September, was named one of The New Zealand Listener’s ‘50 Best Children’s Books of 2010’, and North and South praised its narrative for its ‘compelling authenticity’, while the Otago Daily Times wrote: ‘The writing is tight; the characterisation credible, and the narrative exciting.’ The book’s innovative technique of opening each chapter with a blog commentary on events was widely acclaimed, the reviewer in Magpies commenting that the ‘cross-media technique of combining online blogs with traditional text…brings the book vividly into our world’.

Reviewing Heart of Danger, the concluding volume in the Juno trilogy, in New Zealand Books, Angelina Sbroma identified Juno as a ‘protagonist of wish-fulfilment fantasy in the grand tradition’, but for all that is still a ‘rounded character’. The book left Bob Docherty requesting a fourth volume..

Also by Fleur Beale

See all

Praise for Being Magdalene

“...I think it's the best young adult novel I've ever read.”

John McIntyre, Nine to Noon

“Superbly written by Fleur Beale who keeps the tension on for the whole novel. Watching a family disintegrate is disturbing but the ending will bring tears to your eyes . . . You will not forget this novel in a hurry.”

Bob Bocherty, Bob's Book Blog

“The remarkable success of I Am Not Esther and its sequels lies in Beale's insightful ability to see shades between black and white, convincing us, for example, of Rebecca's twin's decision to stay inside the faith as much as her own to leave. While exposing the hypocrisy of those Elders claiming divine guidance, Beale allows other church adults to show compassion, wisdom and discernment in a fine balance.”

Ann Packer, NZ Listener

“written splendidly...quite unforgettable”

Gisborne Herald

“Fleur Beale has done it again. Being Magdalene is destined to be as big a classic ... an extremely tense read...this is the first time we encounter worldly people and their opinions of the cult. The doctors that see Magdalene are immediately suspicious of sexual misconduct, and violence within the cult: that’s what everybody thinks a cult is. This happens again and again, each time Magdalene has to interact with outsiders, they judge her before knowing her. Magdalene’s wounds are not on the surface however, they go much deeper than anybody realises until later in the book. I urge you to read this brilliant book about how the human spirit can triumph against adversary, and how people can heal themselves better than they know. It is a universal tale, told with clarity and grace.”

Sarah Forster, Booksellers Blog

“This compelling young adult novel is the sequel to New Zealand’s award winning author Fleur Beale’s I Am Not Esther and I Am Rebecca. The series is about life inside a religious cult. I’ve read all three books and they are all excellent...although they are aimed at young adults they have a far wider audience.”

Linda Hall, Hawke's Bay Weekend

“A book that I recommend should be on every teen's reading list this year.”

Paula Phillips, Good Reads

“Five out of five stars...Being Magdalene is my favourite book in the series; the ending seemed to tie things off so perfectly. By the end of the book I found myself attached to so many of the characters that I was worried that they might not get the resolution they deserved. I recommend that you get yourself a copy; it's thrilling, intriguing, and not a read to miss out on.”

Tierney Reardon, Tearaway

“I was trying to think up ONE word to completely describe Being Magdalene and after a little Google searching (oh how I love Google!) I came across the perfect word: SKOOKUM. By Google's definition, Skookum means, "as an adjective (of a person or animal) strong, brave, or impressive." And guys? This sums up Being Magdalene perfectly. As the third in the I Am Not Esther series (and I think the last book?) it delivers just as big as punch as the last two books, I Am Not Esther and I Am Rebecca have. Each story, although woven into each other intricately, is able to easily stand by itself and make you think, "Oh! This is as good as the last book! This is different but familiar and I LOVE it!"”

Ella, Once Upon a Bookish Time

“Brilliant”

Catherine Robertson, Good Reads

“I devoured it in a couple of days - it's one of those books you carry round with you to read whenever you have a spare moment. Strongly recommended for teens”

Lorraine Orman, Good Reads

“Beale is a seasoned hand at creating a believably heart-wrenching atmosphere around Magdalene, relieved by moments of simple, quiet joy. We feel Magdalene's dilemma, which is not about faith but about how to be the sister Zillah needs her to be without destroying her already fragile family.”

Tatjana Schaefer, NZ Books

“This awe-inspiring novel keeps you reading till the very last word, your anticipation is at its peak as you finish the final sentence. This story leaves you questioning the many different scenarios even after the last words have been read. . . . Being Magdalene definitely delivered the complex ending this series deserved and brought tears, happiness, fear and a lot of overwhelming thoughts. I highly recommend Being Magdalene for people of various ages and I can guarantee you will not forget this story in a hurry.”

Emma Myles, aged 10, Hookedonbooks.org.nz


Awards & Recognition

  • Storylines Notable Young Adult Fiction Award

    Awarded • 2016 • A 2016 Storylines Notable Book

  • New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults

    Finalist • 2016 • Finalist in the Young Adult Fiction and Children's Choice categories of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children & Young Adults


Related titles