Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

The Review I was Afraid to Write

Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby

I read this book “cold,” that is, I never once glanced at any reviews, summaries, or other potential spoilers. I had no inkling what this book was about other than the cover and the title. And, I admit, I didn’t really want to read it, figuring it was just another teeny-bopper “OMG she’s pregs!” story. Definitely not my cup o’ tea. So what made me pick it up? The author bio!

Here is this YA novel, put out by a Catholic publisher, written by a graduate of what is probably the most authentically-Catholic university in the world, with this rather shocking title that definitely does NOT look like the kind of thing I hand down to my daughters as “inspiring reading.” Curious. But I am here to tell you, this is not a book to be judged by its cover!

*SPOILERS a-comin’!*

Told as a retrospective account by (not-baby-daddy) Calvin, this is a painfully honest look into today’s Catholic high school culture through the eyes of a British student recently come to live in the States with family he never knew existed until the recent death of his single mother. Although he narrates the story of main character Sydney, a gifted social outcast who has been date raped by Calvin’s American cousin Josh, Calvin is the redeeming character in the story, a hero’s hero in every way. Thorne’s genius in crafting this “cursedly dashing British fellow” is the reason this (not really!) typical teenage tale, which could have potentially come off as trashy in the hands of a less-adept wordsmith, is worthy of high praise amongst diehard March-for-Lifers and Cafeteria Catholics alike. Similar to how Harper Lee used a child-protagonist/narrator to address volatile social topics in To Kill a Mockingbird, Thorne uses Calvin, a good-natured “foreigner” with an almost innocent bystander persona, to deliver harsh truths that might not sit as well with us coming from our own neighbors or family members. 

Calvin observes, “This particular Catholic school was one of those uniform-clad institutions that might make a pass at religious instruction here or there, but you’d probably never guess it if you walked the halls.” He relates a typical family dinner: “The three of them mumbled a quick, standard Catholic grace and began eating…” His perspective on the lackluster attitudes of American Catholic families comes off somehow less offensive to readers in the same way that Lee’s Scout could make racial observations no adult character could get away with in the deep South. Even so, it was pretty uncomfortable to read (one of) the (several pieces of terrible) advice from Sydney’s best friend Winnie on the topic of abortion: “Oh come on. Big Catholic school, oh no. Like we’re not all screwing each other and on the pill and watching our parents get divorced? Nobody cares about that stuff anymore. It’s not a big deal.” Ouch.

Winnie is not the only astonishly-horrible giver of advice. I was very surprised and sad at how Syndey’s beloved and trusted aunt, the adult she turned to for help, also let me, um, I mean Sydney, down. But then again, Thorne is telling a story that is painfully realistic. Parents, police, and even the school principal majorly drop the ball throughout, and a careless reader may call out Thorne on this aspect of the work, citing lack of good role models as a reason to keep this book out of the hands of our Catholic young adults. I admit this is something that had me dragging my feet a couple of days before I could recommend this book whole-heartedly to the Catholic community. But after letting it gel and rise and bloom in my heart for a night or two, I think what a mistake it that would have been, to not share this book!

I believe Thorne has heaped up such a high pile of mistakes and obstacles for our protagonist with good reasons beyond lending to a dramatic suspense the size of impossible: she’s fearlessly daring to illustrate our human fallibility. She’s shaking us all up a bit, saying even we grownups make mistakes, and we need to face it. Many situations in Sydney and Calvin Have a Baby are hard to look at, for young and not-so-young adult readers. And I’m sure many a Catholic mom-reader, as I did, will want to deny that a Catholic school could really be as bad as the one in this story, but I’ve lived this. I have to admit it really can be.

These harsh truths give Thorne’s tale power and credibility, for it is in contrast to such horribleness that we appreciate the profound goodness that exists in a character such as Calvin. Thorne gives YA readers a modern-day saint, if you will, that we can truly aspire to be. Oh! this book. It isn’t for the weak-of-heart, folks, but somehow I wish everyone would read it.


Adrienne Thorne is a Franciscan Steubenville grad who worked as a screenwriter in Hollywood until she returned to her first love, writing YA novels.

IMG_0775-2.jpg

Adrienne blogs here.

 

It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

Sequels Are Here! Give Gable and Gaouette For Christmas

Two of our family’s favorite Catholic Teen/YA series are sporting shiny new sequels just in time for stocking-stuffer shopping! Ellen Gable’s Charlotte’s Honor, follow-up to her Julia’s Gifts, as well as T. M. Gaouette’s Guarding Aaron (Book 3 in the Faith and King Fu series I wrote about here) will not disappoint!

 

Charlotte' Honor Cover image
Gable’s second installment in her “Great War, Great Love” trilogy is a tender and moving romance set in the field hospitals of war-torn France.

 

For the fans of historic fiction, it is with great pleasure that I recommend Charlotte’s Honor, a beautiful, tender, and moving story set in the field hospitals of France during World War One. Charlotte, to whom we were first introduced in Julia’s Gifts, is a strongly-positive role model for our daughters. She endures trials that most of us cannot imagine facing today, yet the genuine manner in which the characters react and respond rings true for all time. I would place Charlotte’s Honor high on any list for a historical fiction, mother-daughter generational, or virtue-based book club. Of course, Gable’s tales are perfectly delectable as personal pleasures curled up alone by a cozy, fire or packed along with your winter break beach reads!

The perfect mix of historical detail and romance, this second installment in the planned “Great Love, Great War Trilogy” makes a delightful stocking stuffer for any aged 13-and-up (due to some descriptions of the medical aspects of war injuries) ladies on your list.

From the historic Great War abroad to the war kids face today, I now present to you Guarding Aaron:

Guarding Aaron Book Cover
T. M. Gaouette’s 3rd installment in the Faith and Kung Fu series will not disappoint!

 

Wow, this author just keeps cranking out stuff that I firmly believe every Christian teen MUST READ. In this third installment of the Faith and Kung Fu series, Tanner is back in town. She and her friend Faith both have feelings for series hero Gabriel (who serves as a sort of “guardian angel” to a kid named Aaron in this story). But rumor has it Gabriel wants to become a priest. Faith’s overwhelming jealousy causes her to make a few very poor decisions that lead to a series of violent and life-altering events for the group.

I love how there are so many descriptions and scenes illustrating the kids’ faith and its influence on their daily lives. In particular, Gabriel’s deep trust and reliance on God’s plan for him is inspirational to readers of all ages. But Gaouette masterfully manages to mix in plenty of action-packed scenes for these characters that the Faith and King Fu series’ fans have grown to love (like Tanner Rose, Faith, Gabe, Christian, etc.)! And cleverly woven into the parties and the punches are just so many important issues. Characters experience and explore everything from bullying and believing in yourself to chastity and true charity. Guarding Aaron’s a winner, full of action, emotion, and didn’t-see-THAT-coming moments for both girls and guys. Moms and dads would enjoy these books, too.

More book reviews are coming, so stay tuned for updates on Astfalk, Beckman, Linden, Wahl, and more!

Molly McBride is disappointed with the seasons.
art, Molly Comics, Uncategorized

Second Winter

Molly McBride is disappointed with the seasons.
Don’t like the weather in Ohio? Wait five minutes.
art, Molly Comics, Uncategorized

Happy Easter from the McBrides!

Molly McBride Easter Banner 2018
Happy Easter from “the McBrides!”
art, Molly Comics, Uncategorized

When you’re pinch-proof

Molly McBride St. Pat's Day Comic
When you’re pinch-proof
Molly McBride and Sissy celebrate Daylight Savings!
art, Molly Comics, Mothers of Mollies, Uncategorized

Perspective

Molly McBride and Sissy celebrate Daylight Savings!
Molly and Sissy are happy to “sacrifice” an hour of sleep. How about you?
It's sharing time!, Recommended Reads, Uncategorized

Battle For Our Souls

Although I believe the target audience for Battle For His Soul is teen boys, I highly recommend this book for EVERYONE.

Book Review By Molly's Momma
By the pool: Battle For His Soul changed my life.

I packed this book for some light reading by the pool on our family Spring Break, but reading Battle For His Soul by Theresa Linden turned out to be a life-altering experience for me. While that statement may seem a little over-the-top for a woman pushing 50 and still reading YA novels, what I mean is this: 1. I can’t stop thinking about it, and 2. it has changed my behaviors, truly transforming me into a better person.

Linden vividly describes her characters’ guardian angels, as well as the demons they fight. Something that made a big impression on me was how acts of sacrificial love (as well as prayer) actually gave extra powers to the guardian angels and took away power from the demons. I have found myself prattling on endlessly to my family about how much I enjoyed this book. But, more importantly, I have found myself actively looking for more ways to perform acts of sacrificial love for them in my day-to-day activities. This little change in me seems to be spreading out like ripples, affecting the rest of the family: I am catching them doing extra little things for me and for each other!

Does the name Theresa Linden ring a bell? I’ve no doubt that it does at this point. I’ve blogged about her books before here.  A prolific writer,Linden is a member of the Catholic Writers’ Guild and Catholic Teen Books, which are 2 great sites to check out for more amazing books by Catholic authors. I read this about her on her blog:

“Her Catholic faith inspires the belief that there is no greater adventure than the reality we can’t see, the spiritual side of life. She hopes that the richness, depth, and mystery of the Catholic faith arouse her readers’ imaginations to the invisible realities and the power of faith and grace.”

As an aside, given that ’tis the season, I am also reminded that this is what Lent is all about: making acts of sacrificial LOVE. It doesn’t do any good to give up chocolate if it’s just going to make us hateful. Giving up (sacrificing) something only “counts” if it is done with LOVE. Who’da thunk I’d find such a message in a teen novel?

Amazon link to purchase Battle For His Soul.

What are you reading? You can share your favorite books by tagging your social media posts with #OpenBook and linking up with us at Carolyn Astfalk’s “My Scribbler’s Heart” blog as well as CatholicMom.