The INSPY Awards are blogger-initiated book awards for fictional literature that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith. The awards were given in several categories in 2011, including the category of “literature for young people”, and I got to be judge in that category. The INSPY Awards took a break in 2012, but they’re back this year. And the list below is the “long list” of nominated books in the Literature for Young People category for this time around:
Wreath by Judy Christie
With a Name Like Love by Tess Hilmo. Semicolon review here.
Thundersnow by Sheila Hollinghead
Dead Manâ€™s Hand by Eddie Jones
There Youâ€™ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones
Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan. Semicolon review here.
Cake â€“ Love, Chickens and a Taste of Peculiar by Joyce Magnin
Right Where I Belong by Krista McGee
The Embittered Ruby by Nicole Oâ€™Dell
The Shadowed Onyx by Nicole Oâ€™Dell
Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker
Addison Blakely: Confessions of a PK by Betsy St. Amant
Temptation: Solitary Tales No. 3 by Travis Thrasher
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr
Three of the books on the list I’ve already read and reviewed, as indicated. Actually, I read How To Save a Life by Sara Zarr, and I thought I reviewed it but can’t find the review anywhere. I liked all three very much. I read a couple more of the books on this long list this past week: There You’ll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones and Code of Silence by Tim Shoemaker (review coming soon).
Ms. Jones is a rather prolific author of teen romances for Christian girls. Her books were all over Lifeway last time I was there. I rad one of her other books a year or two ago and thought it was just “meh.” This one was fairly low on the scale, too, and would have received a complete pan, were it not for the setting: Ireland.
Finley Sinclair, daughter of a wealthy hotel magnate, and sister to Will whose death in a terrorist incident has put Finley’s life in a tailspin of grief, is headed for Ireland to spend a year studying and trying to reconnect with God. Will came to love and know God when he studied in Ireland, and Finley hopes to follow in his footsteps, literally by visiting all of the places Will wrote about in his travel journal. Color Finley grey: grief-stricken, questioning, recovering from a mental breakdown, and lost.
Enter Beckett Rush, teen heart-throb, Hollywood player and bad boy, and star of a series of vampire movies. He’s in Ireland to film the latest movie in the Steel Markov vampire franchise. Beckett and Finley meet on the plane, clash, and hope never to see one another again. Alas, predictably, they are destined to meet again, clash again, and eventually fall in love and live happily ever after.
OK, it’s not quite that cliche. Take away the “live happily ever after.” Beckett and especially Finley are dealing with way too many issues to have a traditional happy ending. Beckett has a pushy dad who doubles as his greedy manager. Finley has mental health issues, a grouchy school assignment, and the loss of her faith, as well as the afore-mentioned grief and Beckett to keep her busy and confused.
As I think about it, this book would have made a good K-drama: Finley falls asleep on Beckett’s shoulder and drools, the two feud but are thrown together in spite of themselves, there’s a group of nasty, jealous girls at school, Finley has a sidekick, Erin, whom she mentors, lots of K-drama tropes. An awkward kiss or two, change the nationalities and the setting of the novel, take out the God-talk, and it would work on Korean TV just fine. In fact, it would work better on screen and with some editing.
I probably wouldn’t have made it through this one, though, if it hadn’t been set in Ireland. Give me a vivid setting, and I’ll follow you anywhere. And I got to read parts of the dialogue with an Irish lilt inside my head. A good plot and some engaging characters would have helped the journey, however.