Recommendation: ** (2 1/2 Stars)
Positives: This is not a story for the faint of heart. I'll admit I did not care for the book initially, but after reading where the author took her inspiration from I had a better understanding and appreciation for this story. The author says she wants to portray life as it is - broken and messy and help readers understand that we are never beyond God's grace. I think she has done a good job of portraying the effects of sin in the lives of her characters. I hope in the books to follow we will see more of the gospel of grace that she says she wants to portray.
Negatives: I was at a disadvantage because I have not read the first book in this series. It took me quite a while to figure out the characters and keep them straight. There are a lot of characters and the author jumps between their stories frequently so it was difficult at first.
I was confused as to why the character Marcus has this "special ability" where he intensely feels the emotions of others. In a story that seemed mostly realistic this was a puzzle to me. I'm not sure why this element is necessary in the story and it seemed out of place to me.
I am hopeful that in the sequel the gospel will be presented. Though these kids are loosely affiliated with a church group there is no mention of the gospel, no one is calling them to repentance. In the midst of their pain and suffering, no one is pointing them to the only source of Hope and Joy - Jesus Christ. Maybe in future books we will see the church rise up and share the gospel with these kids.
Talking Points: Will our kids encounter hardship and pain like these kids endure? Certainly. We live in sin-filled world and they will encounter sin and pain in their own life and the lives of friends. The question is, do they know where to turn when hardship comes? Will they boldly proclaim the gospel to their friends? Will they call those friends who claim to know Christ to repentance? The Gospel is the only answer to sin and the effects of sin we endure here on earth. Talk to your child about the most loving message they can share with their friends in times of hardship and pain - the message that Jesus Christ has paid the penalty for their sin by dying on the cross. Help your kids to understand the gospel well enough that they can effectively share it with their friends - and pray together for boldness when the opportunities arise! Here is a simple summary of the gospel with Scriptures. God - He is Holy (Rev. 4:8, Is. 6:1-5); He is Creator (Gen. 1:1, John 1:1); He is Loving (Ex. 334:6, I John 4:10); Man - Man is created by God (Gen. 1:27); Man is Sinful (Rom. 3:23, Is. 53:6); Man is separated from God and headed to death (Is. 59:2, Col. 1:21, Rom. 6:23); Jesus Christ - Jesus is God in the Flesh (Luke 22:70, John 1:1-2); Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Cor. 5:21, I Pet. 2:22); Jesus Reconciles us to God (2 Cor. 5:18-19); Jesus Died in our Place (Rom. 5:8) Jesus Rose from the dead (Acts 17:31) Jesus is the Way to Eternal Life (John 3:16, John 5:24); Response - Repent (Acts. 2:38, Acts 17:30); Believe (John 3:18, John 5:24).
Age Level: 14 years of age and up
I received a free copy of this book through the BookCrash Program in exchange for this review.