(I know I said I was going to do "The Graveyard Book" this week, but I goofed up and did this review instead. Enjoy this and I'll be back with Neil Gaiman next week).
Author: Terra Elan McVoy
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Date of Publication: 2009
Reading Level: Ages 14 and up
Best friends -- Fiction.
Friendship -- Fiction.
Purity (Ethics) -- Fiction.
Christian life -- Fiction.
Dating (Social customs) -- Fiction.
First person narratives.
Teenagers -- Fiction.
Celibacy -- Fiction.
Virginity -- Fiction.
Betrayal -- Fiction.
Sexuality -- Fiction.
Teenage girls -- Fiction.
Best friends -- Juvenile fiction.
Friendship -- Juvenile fiction.
Purity (Ethics) -- Juvenile fiction.
Christian life -- Juvenile fiction.
Dating (Social customs) -- Juvenile fiction.
My additions (WorldCat covers it pretty thoroughly, so I don’t have a whole lot to add) –
Religion in School
Synopsis: (from Goodreads) –
Tabitha and her four best friends all wear purity rings, symbols of the virginity-until-marriage pledge they made years ago. Now Tab is fifteen, and her ring has come to mean so much more. It's a symbol of who she is and what she believes—a reminder of her promises to herself, and her bond to her friends. But when Tab meets a boy whose kisses make her knees go weak, everything suddenly seems a lot more complicated. Tab's best friend, Morgan, is far from supportive, and for the first time, Tabitha is forced to keep secrets from the one person with whom she's always shared everything. When one of those secrets breaks to the surface, Tab finds herself at the center of an unthinkable betrayal that splits her friends apart. As Tab's entire world comes crashing down around her, she's forced to re-examine her friendships, her faith, and what exactly it means to be pure.
Comments: This was a very interesting read. I’m not a real fan of Christian fiction in general because the authors are sometimes a bit heavy-handed about the point they’re trying to make. Even though I consider myself a religious person, I sometimes feel like the characters and the stories in religious fiction are often blown out of proportion. The genre is not how I would want religious people to be portrayed, but that’s what the stereotype has become. I sort of feel like Christian fiction makes us look bad. So, I was a little nervous about reading this book, but it turned out not to be the typical Christian fiction (in fact, the author gave an interview where she said this book was not meant to be categorized as a Christian book).
When they were twelve, Tabitha, Cara, Morgan, Naeomi and Priah all made promises to themselves and to God to keep themselves pure and abstain from sex until marriage. They all wear purity rings to symbolize this promise. Three years after making that promise, things have changed in each girl’s life, but they are still committed to their promise. However, when Cara breaks her promise and has sex with her boyfriend, Michael, that’s when things spiral out of control.
Tabitha is the narrator of the book and she is easily my favorite character. Tabitha finds great strength in her faith and loves going to church, even though her parents are overly religious, though they still support her. Her relationship with God is a very personal one and she doesn’t like to make a big deal about her faith in public. When Cara tells Tabitha that she broke her promise, Tabitha is the one that’s the most supportive and caring toward Cara. Morgan and Naeomi completely shun Cara for her actions to the point where Morgan (whom Tabitha describes as her very best friend) even shuns Tabitha for still being friends with Cara. In the meantime, Tabitha meets Jake at a church function and they start dating and their relationship starts getting really serious. It makes her take a look at her own promise and what she’s going to do about it.
There is a lot to love about this book and I could probably gush about it on and on, but I want to focus on one scene in particular – after Morgan finds out about what Cara's done, she starts protesting outside the school and calling for prayer circles in defense of moral purity. Tabitha is completely embarrassed for Morgan because Morgan’s display is very over-the-top and people start laughing at her. Other groups start to protest for various reasons (some for a joke, but some are actually serious) and it gets so out of hand that the principal has to ban all protesting in front of the school because it disrupts regular school activities. Later, Tabitha’s dad starts ranting about how there’s no place for conservative Christian views in public school, which Tabitha does not take kindly to. She gives one of the best lines in the book when she says:
“…[T]hey made her [Morgan] stop. Made everybody stop. And besides, it didn’t work. You don’t have to worry. The world is still safe from too many stupid Jesus freaks. There are still plenty of nonbelievers out there. Your ability to have an intelligent conversation with someone is still intact… I know what you think, Dad. That people who believe in God are just idiot brainwashed zombies. But to some of us, it actually does mean something: Something really special and important we can’t talk about except in certain places and with certain people, because otherwise everyone thinks we’re freaks who’re all out to recruit more zombies into our coven. So go ahead and call the school… but when you do, thank them. Because in spite of what Morgan tried to do, she got stopped. She can’t do it anymore. And neither, for that matter, can anybody else, whether they believe in Allah or the Purple Donkey from Kathmandu… Now nobody can talk about religion at school at all.”
I love Tabitha’s response because it is so realistic in that she stands up to her dad when he starts insulting her faith. Tabitha is a great representation of how most Christian teens really are. She struggles with her own faith, the choices her friends make, how other people (including her parents) react to her faith and she does it in a very non-preachy way. In fact, religion in this story is treated as just one more aspect of Tabitha’s life – it’s not the only thing that she does. God is referred to in a very matter-of-fact way – without the subject being overblown. The story makes it quite clear that being judgmental of other people because of their choices is not right, but that it is good to stand up for your own beliefs. Tabitha continues to love Cara and Morgan even though she doesn’t agree with what they’ve done. In the course of the story, Tabitha grows in her relationship with God and learns a great deal about herself and what she wants in her own life.
This is a fantastic book for any Christian teen no matter the denomination. Tabitha especially sticks up for her beliefs, but she is not the caricature of the prudish and holier-than-thou Christian teen that gets mocked in popular culture. The story takes a realistic look at what it’s like to be a person of faith and hold on to those beliefs when people around you aren’t and, especially, how to get along with everyone no matter what their convictions are. This is a very refreshing take on the subject and it’s something I think many teens would benefit from reading.
Up Next: “The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman
On Deck: "Except the Queen” by Jane Yolen and Midori Snyder; “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins; “Running Out of Time” by Margaret Peterson Haddix; “You Don’t Know Me” by David Klass; “Guys Write for Guys Read” edited by Jon Scieska; “Something Happened” by Greg Logsted; Beautiful by “Amy Reed; “Midnighters: The Secret Hour” by Scott Westerfield