Archive | July, 2013

Ruby Unscripted

31 Jul

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Cindy Martinusen-Coloma

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publish Date: 2009

Paperback: 263 pages

Book Blurb:

Ruby’s finding out that life is all about improve…

Small-town girl Rudy Madden has moved to Marin County, California; home of high-dollar homes and green living. The girls wear shoes that cost more than her entire paycheck at the Underground Coffeehouse & Theater, and the students are well-traveled and full of life experiences that Ruby can only dream of.

All the stresses of adjusting to her new life have put a strain on her ability to trust God. Yet when mysterious and eye-catching Kaden invites Ruby to join the school’s film group, the puzzle piece start to fit. Her love of art finds perfect expression and the film friends really seem to get her. When a major Hollywood director hosts an amateur film contest, Ruby and her friends are stoked.

But Ruby’s old life is tugging her backward and her frantic balancing act throws her new life totally off track. To top things off, Ruby makes a mistake that could cost her the chance of a lifetime.

Life would be so much easier if Ruby just had a script to follow with a happy ending guaranteed. But what’s the fun in that?

Stand alone or series: Poor Ruby is all alone.

Why I read this book: I’m always looking for teen Christian fiction, it’s becoming easier to find but is still not as accessible as I’d like. Ruby is fifteen, in high school and is working on her faith; that was all I really needed to know.

Review:

This novel has a wide cast of characters, some bright and colorful, some not. The spunkiest of the cast, in my opinion, is her new friend Frankie. He keeps the conversations hopping and a page with him is never dull. Similarly, Mac, Ruby’s little brother, is a ray of sunshine owing largely to his little kid cuteness and Ruby’s affection for him. On the opposite end of the scale, Nick, the supposed love of her fifteen year life, is flat. He is fashioned after the stereotypical high school popular boy. Ruby’s character falls somewhere in the middle. She is nowhere near as fun and flippant as Frankie and she does follow many small town and teenage girl stereotypes but expands past a flat rendering. It seemed to me like most of action in the novel happens around Ruby, not to her, which can make for slow reading at times.

Slow or fast pacing, I can’t decide the target age for this book. Teen novels tend to be aspirational, meaning that the reading level tends to be younger than the age of the characters because teens and pre-teens want to read about kids older than themselves. The main character is 15, with that knowledge alone I would be led to believe that the target age is 13-15 year olds. Some of the plotlines and hurdles are completely befitting that age range. However, the novel also discusses sex in a way I’m not sure I’d be wanting my 13-15 year old reading.

(Be warned this is a spoiler) Ruby’s small-town best friend Kate has sex with her secret, much older boyfriend. Ruby doesn’t understand her friend’s decision and Kate does not attempt to provide an explanation. Ruby tries to remain supportive of her defensive friend but eventually tells Kate what she believes: She’s made a huge mistake. The two fight and Ruby feels “anger, even hate” for her friend who’s cut her off. When Kate’s parents find out all the consequences, mainly a grounding, happen off stage and are summarized in one short paragraph. Only after Kate’s parents find out do the two friends talk again. Kate  does not express regret for her decision as much as her regret for public and painful way it ended. That is not the example I would wish for young Christian teens to read.

As a writer of Christian teen fiction I found Ruby Unscripted an interesting study what to do and what not to do in this genre. The bright characters of the novel kept me coming back to see what they’d say next. However in the year since I read it, I’ve yet to recommend it to anyone and I recommend books like doctors hand out prescriptions.

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Flabbergasted

26 Jul

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Ray Blackston

Publisher: Revell

Publication Date: 2003

Paperback: 327 pages

Book Blurb:

Jay Jarvis just moved east. His dating life’s gone south. What else is a guy to do but go fishing?

Jay is new in town. He’s young, successful, and single, and he’s not afraid to plop down in a church pew to scope out the females. But in the murky waters of the South Caroling singles scene, Jay’s whole world is in danger of being turned upside down.

Stand alone or series: I just found out that it’s part of a series and I couldn’t be more excited!

Why I read this book: I was aching for a good male point of view. I’d just read the most ghastly male POV (point of view) in a romance written by a woman. Now I’m not saying that woman can’t write male perspectives because my creative writing professor tried to smite me when I did so. However from the books that I’ve read in the romance genre, they haven’t turned out so well. Blackston’s Jay hit the mark and had me begging for more.

Review:

I’ve always had so much trouble describing this book. There’s some romance in it, by it’s not a romance. There’s some adventure in it, but it’s not an adventure story. It takes several turns that I was not expecting it to take and took me to a place where I did not think it would end up and though it wasn’t at all what I expected I loved it. If I was hard pressed, I’d say Flabbergasted is a story about a man who found God and it changed his life. Now you might argue that this is what most Christian books are about and I would say that this is not most books.

I know this is going to sound silly, but one of the things I really like about it was that it was written by a man. Ray Blackston was able to give us all those little insights about men that I would never think of but when I read all I could do was shout “Yes! That’s exactly what they do!” The way that Jay handles being cornered by three women into having “the talk” and driving in a car with another man for hours on end and being stranded in a creepy place with a bunch of other guys had me cracking up.

Flabbergasted was Blackston’s debut novel and I can see why he’s done so well since. The characters are brighter than the cover, which, trust me, stands out. From a cute, food-flinging missionary to pseudo-single surfer named Ransom to a tall blond with a penchant for speeding and a car named Lime Shebert, the cast of Flabbergasted will stick with you. The snappy dialogue and Jay’s unfettered thoughts keep the pace moving and the reader laughing. But what I love even more than the great voice is how Blackston is able to combine the serious with the silly.

Jay Jarvis takes a journey from hitting up church with the hopes of finding a date to taking a plunge for his faith, even though that could mean upsetting the future he’d so carefully planned. I watched him as her grew and took first baby steps, them leaps and bounds in his walk with God. It was a fun and moving process to watch unfold. Something that made it even more interesting for me is that there is some truth in it. I read and reread bits and pieces—testimonials from people who are characters who might be real people and prologue which I still can’t tell if it’s Ray or Jay speaking (suspicious how close those two names are, isn’t it?) After much, much research I’ve found that about 34% of the novel is true. Which parts? Let me know what you think!

I would recommend this book to anyone—guy, girl, young, and young at heart—and have on many occasions. It’s a great summer read. Keeping checking for more Blackston and the Flabbergasted series. I hope you enjoy!