As “Molly’s” big sis approaches the teen years, Momma’s learning to look in all the right places for great teen/YA series. I’m so happy to give 2 thumbs waaaaaay up for T. M. Gaouette (pronounced “gow ETT”) and her Faith and Kung Fu series which appeals to guys and gals alike.
The series kicks off with Freeing Tanner Rose. Tanner Rose is a 14-year-old starlet already well on her way to a life choked with the typical Hollywood vices. She’s put into a sort of rehab situation (staying with a college friend of her mom’s) when she meets the very wholesome 16-year-old Gabriel, martial arts lover and actively practicing Catholic.
Aaaaand they pretty much can’t stand one another. Gabriel keeps finding himself in situations where Tanner’s superficial personality embarrasses him to death in front of his friends. It’s such a antithesis to the typical teeny-bopper story where the geek gets made over by a cool kid and geek thus becomes popular.
I wish there had been books like this when I was a teen! I happened to grow up in a really, REALLY less-than-wholesome peer group situation, and I had no reason to believe there were any “good” kids my age ANYWHERE. It seemed everyone around me was a Tanner Rose. Now, I’m not going to go into any gory details here, but it wasn’t until years and years later that I discovered there actually were some kids out there who didn’t smoke, drink, do drugs, etc. It would be so nice if every teen experiencing this feeling could read this book and realize that there really are kids out there like Gabriel and his friends. Check out this conversation between Tanner and Gabriel’s friends Faith and Nina, talking about Gabriel:
“He should totally think about modeling,” Tanner said.
Faith snorted. “Don’t hold your breath. He’s not like that.” She noted the look of confusion on Tanner’s face. “It’s not that complicated, Rose. Gabriel’s not into looks. I don’t even think that he realizes he’s handsome. And he’s definitely not interested in dating. None of us are.” She turned and grabbed a large bag of chips from her backpack and pulled it open.
“Sometimes you have to exploit your talents before they disappear,” Tanner said.
“Yeah, but Gabriel would say that looks aren’t a talent.” Faith popped a large chip into her mouth. “And besides plastic surgery, people shouldn’t be credited for their looks. That’s all God.” She tipped the bag toward Tanner who took a chip and ate it.
“But it takes an effort to maintain yourself,” Tanner said.
“Yeah, but that’s different,” Faith said, looking at Tanner. “Personality is what really defines a person, and even a beautiful person can be ugly if they’re horrible inside, and vice versa.” She shoved another chip into her mouth and raised her eyebrows, as if waiting for a response. But Tanner didn’t have one ready to go. So they looked at each other, the sound of crunching filling the conversation void.
“Well, the people I hang out with don’t really pay attention to personality. They just care about looks and money,” Tanner said eventually.
“That’s too bad.”
Faith shrugged and wiped her hand on her towel. Her mouth was still full, so Tanner waited. Finally, she said, “Because those things just can’t compete against a good character.”
T. M. does such a wonderful job of making the characters so real and likable that, even wholesome as they are, I’d like to believe my teen-self would have wanted to emulate them. I love it that there is so much detail about the girls’ clothes. Teen girls love to read about what other teen girls are wearing, and the way T. M. contrasts the flashy, slinky outfits Tanner sports against the cute, modest way Faith and Nina dress will surely send the right message to today’s YA readers. Positive peer pressure!
Talk about getting inside a young girl’s head! Imagine you are a 14 year-old girl with a lot of insecurities and problems, away from your family and friends, in the home of a really good-looking 16-year old boy. You’re flirting, trying to act extra mature and worldly to impress him.
“So you’ve never…?” Tanner asked, looking up at him. He shook his head, his eyebrows raised in amusement. “Someone as hot as you?”
He laughed softly. “It’s dependent on looks? he asked. “Besides, you’re fourteen. You shouldn’t be thinking about sex, let alone calling boys ‘hot’ to their faces.” He shook his head and glanced out at the house. She was suddenly embarrassed and she didn’t know why. Shouldn’t he be embarrassed that he’s a virgin at 16? she wondered. But Gabriel showed no embarrassment or shame. In fact, she was certain that he seemed proud of it.
“Have you ever kissed a girl?” she asked.
“Nope,” he said with that same un abashed tone.
“Must make for some pretty awkward dates, ” she said with a smile. “You’ve probably broken a ton of hearts.”
“I don’t date,” he said, looking at her. Tanner was reminded of her conversation with Faith and Nina during their camping trip.
“What?” she said and this time she laughed. “Are you kidding me?”
“Why not?” And then a thought crossed her mind and she added, “Oh, your mom won’t let you?”
Gabriel shrugged. “I don’t know if she would. I’ve never asked her.”
“Never met a girl you wanted to date? What about Faith or Nina?”
“I don’t date, Tanner.”
“Because it’s a waste of time and emotions..” He held her gaze and shrugged before adding, “I don’t want to get involved with anyone I wouldn’t consider for a future wife, and getting married is just not an option right now. So, until God opens that door for me, I’m not interested.”
Tanner let his words replay in her mind, and it surprised her how affected she was by them, and she didn’t know why. She didn’t know if it was because he had the courage to make such a statement or if she wished she had the resolve to make that same vow.
Burn! Poor Tanner.
Well, I won’t spoil it for you. Buy Freeing Tanner Rose to see what Tanner ends up doing, then get book number 2 Saving Faith.
Oh! and Book 3 is coming very soon! We can’t wait.
My daughter has also read and enjoyed T. M. Gaouette’s The Destiny Of Sunshine Ranch. Maybe she can be a guest blogger and fill you in on it!
I’m just thanking God for T. M. Gaouette and all these amazing Catholic authors of teen/YA lit. I do believe they will change the world!