Google+ YA Romantics: Losing My Religion: A Compare and Contrast Review

Monday, February 16, 2015

Losing My Religion: A Compare and Contrast Review


I don't know about you, but I love books that examine the concept of religious faith. And I don't mean just books that teach me about a different religion, but books that really look at what makes a person have an unshakeable belief in something larger than themself. And I especially love books where tht faith is tested. Books like Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally.

I recently read two YA books that feature characters struggling with issues of faith (I was hoping to include a third, Vivian Apple at the End of the World, but my library has been taking forever to get it in for me.)  Since these two are coming out soon, I thought I'd go ahead with these two.


No Parking at the End Times
by Bryan Bliss
To be published by Greenwillow
on February 24, 2015

Source: Thanks to Greenwillow for an e-ARC
Synopsis from Goodreads: Abigail doesn't know how her dad found Brother John. Maybe it was the billboards. Or the radio. What she does know is that he never should have made that first donation. Or the next, or the next. Her parents shouldn't have sold their house. Or packed Abigail and her twin brother, Aaron, into their old van to drive across the country to San Francisco, to be there with Brother John for the "end of the world." Because of course the end didn't come. And now they're living in their van. And Aaron’s disappearing to who-knows-where every night. Their family is falling apart. All Abigail wants is to hold them together, to get them back to the place where things were right. But maybe it’s too big a task for one teenage girl. 
My take:  As the synopsis indicates, No Parking at the End Times wasn't so much about faith as it was about fraud: Abigail's family is victimized by a con artist preacher, a guy who convinces people the world is coming to an end and that they need to give him all their money. (Though I'm not sure what he'd need it for...)

It's hard not to be sympathetic to the twins' plight, to watch as they descend further into poverty and homelessness. The problem I had was that I didn't understand the parents' blind and misplaced faith in a guy who tells them to make choices that hurt their family. "Sell my house and give all you the money? Sure, no questions asked." Because I'm not a person with a strong religious bent, I needed to understand how and why two seemingly rational adults were so taken in that they'd do something that left their children homeless and hungry. I'm not saying this kind of stuff doesn't happen, but I was hoping the book would delve more in to how it happens and why. Brother John didn't come off as very charismatic to me, so I spent a large part of the story feeling completely annoyed at the parents. Near the end of the story, the twins decide that the adults in charge have lost their minds (finally!) and take matter into their own hands.

The Distance Between Lost and Found
by Kathryn Holmes
To be published on February 17, 2015
by Harper Teen

Source: thanks to Harper for an eARC

Synopsis: Ever since the night of the incident with Luke Willis, the preacher’s son, sophomore Hallelujah Calhoun has been silent. When the rumors swirled around school, she was silent. When her parents grounded her, she was silent. When her friends abandoned her … silent. Now, six months later, on a youth group retreat in the Smoky Mountains, Hallie still can’t find a voice to answer the taunting. Shame and embarrassment haunt her, while Luke keeps coming up with new ways to humiliate her. Not even meeting Rachel, an outgoing newcomer who isn’t aware of her past, can pull Hallie out of her shell. Being on the defensive for so long has left her raw, and she doesn’t know who to trust. On a group hike, the incessant bullying pushes Hallie to her limit. When Hallie, Rachel, and Hallie’s former friend Jonah get separated from the rest of the group, the situation quickly turns dire. Stranded in the wilderness, the three have no choice but to band together. With past betrayals and harrowing obstacles in their way, Hallie fears they’ll never reach safety. Could speaking up about the night that changed everything close the distance between being lost and found? Or has she traveled too far to come back?

My take: Distance Between Lost and Found took some time to get going for me. I was never bored, but the story builds deliberately, and I find third person present a weird narrative point of view to read. But by the halfway point, when things really got grim for this trio of teens who run off from a church hiking trip and get lost in the wilderness, I settled into the story and ended up enjoying it a lot.

As the story opens, Hallelujah is hiding something, something that has made her an outcast among the popular kids in her church group and harmed her relationship with her friend Jonah. When Hallie runs off from the group, Jonah and another girl follow and before long, they're lost in the Smoky Mountains with no cell phones and limited food. The book is coy about Hallie's secret until about halfway through, and when she finally starts talking about what happened to her and how it has affected her, things really gets going. This is also the point in the story where the characters begin to wonder if they'll make it out of the mountains alive. The metaphor of "I once was lost but now am found" could have come off heavy handed, but didn't. I really liked the way that the whole survival-in-the-wilderness story paralleled the way that each of the main characters recent experiences with things that had tested their faith. And I loved that when the going got tough, Hallie didn't just throw up her hands and ask God to save her. Her religious faith gave her the strength to help save herself and her friends, as well as stand up for herself in other situations. This book seemed quiet at first, but then built to a lot of suspense and a moving ending.

How do you feel about books with religious themes? Are you planning to try either of these?


24 comments:

  1. Both books sound interesting but I find religious characters really irk me as I can't relate as I'm an atheist and find the decisions made often ridiculous.

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    1. I can understand that. I'm not particularly religious themselves, which is why I think I'm so interested in reading about what makes faith important to others.

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  2. I find the topic of religion in general to be pretty fascinating. That being said, reading about religion can be difficult sometimes since I've come across some books that seem more preachy than anything else really. Those never work for me either. I don't think that's the case with these two reads though and I admit that you've got me interested in them. Hmmm... maybe i'll give them a shot one of these days! Lovely reviews Jen :)
    Lily @ Lilysbookblog

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    1. I think books that are preachy about anything, from religion to politics, are a big turn-off to many readers!

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  3. I am seeing a lot of books with plots about religion. Vivian Apple was another one along those lines, as well.

    Kate @ Ex Libris

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  4. The first book sounds a lot like This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready. The second one sounds interesting to me.

    I don't mind books about religion. I like reading about it but more when people are wrestling with their beliefs or educating me about a religion or customs I'm not familiar with. Since I would say I'm more agnostic I don't like when it feels heavy handed/preachy or like a lecture.

    Karen @For What It's Worth

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    1. I also love stories of people wrestling with their beliefs, whether that's with political or religious or other beliefs. I think it makes a good story!

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  5. I usually try to stay away from religion. Got nothing against it, It's just not a topic I actively seek. In the chance that religion does sneak into the book I'm reading, I enjoy the teens questioning their beliefs because I feel like it's most natural at the age (especially in dystopia worlds where it feels like a higher power has abandoned humanity).

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    1. I understand and I think a lot of other readers feel that way. And that's a really great point about questioning things being central to YA!

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  6. I like books with religious themes as long as they are done well. Christian, historical romance are one of my favorites :)

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    1. I haven't read much Christian fiction, and I don't know much about what it is. I need to look into that!

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  7. This is a question that will have my answer in the gray area. On one hand, I don't mind reading about a character battling themselves and their beliefs. But it really bothers me when a novel has that preachy undertone, and I find that more often then not. If a book has any mention of religion, I typically wont read it.

    Lovely review(s) :D

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    1. Completely agree on the preachiness. But I do think that books can incorporate religion without being preachy too :)

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  8. I like books with religion when they're well done, like This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready.
    However, I stopped reading books about angels because of my belief, it didn't felt right anymore.
    These two books sounds great. I'll add them to my TBR pile.

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    1. I need to read This Side of Salvation!
      And I'm not such a fan of angel books, not because of religious beliefs, but because a lot of them just fall into familiar plotlines.

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  9. Ah, it is sometimes slippery slope with the religion books, but certainly some are well done and discuss the issues like in between lost and found where she was questioning like most young adults do

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  10. I don't think religion is included in enough of the books that I read. I am a Christian, and more than anything I just notice when books have a "Christian" character that really isn't Christian at all or the main character makes a comment about how he/she doesn't believe in God at all. But I think the key is the difference between the character having faith and learning a lesson over the author trying to force their faith or a lesson on the reader. And this goes for any topic really. Great question Jen!

    Sandy @ Somewhere Only We Know

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    1. I wish more books featured characters' religion. You know, as a natural part of the story, not this huge "thing." I think that would be interesting!

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  11. I just read Distance Between Lost and Found and I loved it, the religious themes included. It wasn't preachy at all and I love how it was used more as a source of strength and guidance. I'm a Catholic, and this is how I largely view my religion - as a spiritual and a source of strength. Otherwise, if it's so heavy-handed and more "IF YOU'RE NOT WITH US YOU'RE GOING TO HELL" I inch away because I ain't interested in that. Haha.

    Faye at The Social Potato

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  12. I absolutely LOVE books with religious themes, people seeking out their own faith, etc. LOVE them. I think this is a very real part of life that a lot of people go through, and I love reading about it. Preachiness doesn't bother me as much as it does other people, I think, although I really appreciate when a writer is able to craft a story without infusing pushiness into it because I always think those stories are much more well-received. (The exception would be the Christian fiction type stuff, which I also read, but again within that category and genre, I have favorites.) I'm eager to read the two you have highlighted here and I have Vivian Apple out from the library now. I loved Struck by Jennifer Bosworth, Melissa Walker's Small Town Sinners, and Ellen Hopkins' Burned. So fascinating, great question.

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  13. I haven't read that many books with religious themes, though I have read a few with the "people go along with crazy prophesying guy for no good reason" theme. My most recent read (Watch the Sky by Kirsten Hubbard) was like that. I reminded me a bit of The Compound by S. A. Bodeen, as well. I didn't really enjoy either of them. It's not that I mind that theme so much... but I usually end up wanting to slap some sense into the followers; there's often not a good enough reason for them to be so passive and subservient. Other books that I thought were similar are Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle and Escape from Eden by Elisa Nader, both of which also had inexplicable sheep people... but those books also had a religious theme (which was completely unbelievable, as well). I would say to avoid both of those (the Vivian Apple book was one of the worst I've ever read).

    I'm not really drawn to books with overly religious themes, though some of them can be interesting. Alice Hoffman's Incantation is a historical novel about Jews living as Catholics in 1500s Spain, and I thought the setting and situation were fascinating. Antonia Michaelis's fairytale-esque Tiger Moon incorporates Hinduism into the plot. That one's actually one of my favourite books.

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  14. I saw that you loved The Distance Between Lost and Found on Edelweiss before I saw this review. I'll definitely be reading that one. The other book... Probably not. I get upset when I feel parents are unreasonably unintelligent. Nice way of saying that, ey? ;) I do like religious books as long as they aren't preachy and feel real. Most people believe in something and I think sometimes literature shies away too much from representing that because things might feel uncomfortable or offensive, but when things are just portrayed in a realistic or down-to-earth way and in how people feel then it doesn't come off that way. Literature should be a place where we can express and discuss that stuff. On the other side, sometimes I don't want to have to think about that stuff or sometimes it has nothing to do with the story.

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