By Hanah Zahner-Isenberg, 17, California Academy of Math and Science
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The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown has a little something for everyone. It’s a quick read for all you lazy folks out there, but it has enough intellectual substance to improve your SAT scores, or at least put you in good stead with your literature or history teacher. In this thrilling mystery, the two protagonists, one an iconography (study of symbols) expert and one a Parisian code-breaker, run helter-skelter all over Paris and then London trying to escape the cops and unlock a 2,000-year-old secret. Through their discoveries, Brown reveals the workings of two secret societies, both of which exist today. One is Opus Dei, an extreme Catholic sect, which practices corporal mortification (cutting yourself open in the name of God). The other is the Priory of Sion, a mysterious society whose past members include artist and scientist Leonardo DaVinci, the scientist Sir Isaac Newton, the artist Sandro Botticelli and author Victor Hugo. The priory was set up to protect the Holy Grail, something that any Indiana Jones or Monty Python fan is familiar with, but may not truly understand.

This book may push some buttons. I should warn the potential chauvinistic reader: The DaVinci Code empowers women with its exploration of the sacred feminine and the need to regain that reverence of the female in today’s society. In addition, if you are a devout or fanatical Catholic or Christian (or Muslim or Jew), prepare to have your religion questioned beyond your level of comfort. However, if you are an irreverent troublemaker (as I am), I suggest you hand The DaVinci Code to the next bible-thumper who knocks on your door.

The story doesn’t end with the book, however. The author also has a Web site that ties in with the novel. It has photos of many of the places and pieces of art mentioned in The DaVinci Code, which I highly recommend looking at as you read. I’ve looked at the painting "The Last Supper" hundreds of times, but after reading this book I thought, "How could I not have noticed that?" There are many other moments of discovery throughout the novel, which I could share, but I don’t want to give away any surprises. Let’s just say that this book has completely altered my perception of the Louvre, DaVinci, Mary Magdalene, the Holy Grail, the pentagram and the Star of David.