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Things Change by Patrick Jones

Posted by Sherry on 6/6/2009 in 48-Hour Book Challenge, General, Projects |

TIme reading: 2.5 hours
Pages: 216
Total time spent reading and blogging for the 48 Hour Reading Challenge so far: 13.5 hours

Since I bailed on the last two books I tried last night, I felt some internal pressure to actually finish this one. It took some self-discipline to do so since I already knew what would happen from the very beginning.

As bibliotherapy for teenage girls caught in an abusive relationship, I think it would work, although I’m no psychologist. As a stand-alone story, it’s cliched and predictable. Johanna is the smart girl, straight A’s, never had a real boyfriend, perfectionist with perfectionist parents. Paul is the class clown, starving for attention, abandoned by his deadbeat alcoholic father and ignored by his overly-religious mother. The two get together out of need and stay together out of need. Johanna needs someone to help her rebel against her controlling parents and tell her that she is pretty and loved. Paul needs sex, a girlfriend who will make excuses for his lack of self-control, and a target for his anger.

As I said, the book is one big cliched parable: This Is What Happens In Abusive Relationships, Beware! Although in one sense I found the characters of Johanna and Paul to be believable because, yeah, this sort of relationship happens all the time, in another way, the details just didn’t work. Paul is headed for Stanford, but his mother tells him they don’t have enough money for him to go there. They live in a trailer park, but Paul acts as if he’s never thought about the lack of money to pay for an education at Stanford in spite of their obvious poverty. Then, it turns out that one of Paul’s friends thinks Paul could have saved enough money for Stanford from his part-time job, and he’s really just afraid to face the real world. Does this author know how much it costs to go to Stanford? Or to the Bible college that Paul’s mother offers as an alternative?

That’s just one minor example. In an interview in the back of the book, the author says he wants to write about working class teens because “these kids need a voice.” He should get to know a few more of those working class teens who also don’t have the money to go to a private school across the country for their post-high school education. Also I don’t believe that Christianity is a substitute for alcohol or any other addiction, but Mr. Jones obviously does. From his interview: “Paul’s mother had to be someone who was totally absent, and rather than have her be consumed by alcohol, I gave her religion.” Yes, Mr. Marx, religion is the opiate of the people.

Not my favorite YA novel, but as I said, perhaps it would be useful as a handout in a youth counseling center.

4 Comments

  • Lady-S says:

    Just browsing around fellow Challenge participants’ blogs and popping up to say hello. Wasn’t impressed with the sound of the book before you gave those two quotes from the author, and those really cinched it. Condescending much? You manage to be more open-minded about the book than I think I would have: nice review.

  • Hey, i won’t comment on your review because everybody gets an opinion. But three things you wrote related to the book I want to address since they contain factual errors and/ or assumptions.

    1. the book as biblotherapy: well, you assumed correctly, Things Change can and does work at that. I get messages like this all the time: “I know for sure that you changed my life with your book. And I just have to say thank you for representing girls (like me) who have been in abusive relationships. Because you feel like no one cares or will stand up for you. So thank you, for everything =]” If you look at customer reviews on Amazon, you’ll see a lot more of these.

    2. Paul isn’t going Stanford, no chance. This is done to show Paul’s character. He says he’s going to do stuff (stop hitting Johanna, stop drinking, etc) but doesn’t do them. Paul is suffering from PTSD, and thus has no little ability to control, plan, or organize his life, such as never being on time or blowing off his SATs to follow a girl. Your assumption about me is incorrect: I’ve spend most of my career invovled with working class kids (growing up one myself in Flint MI) so I totally understand there is no way Paul could afford a school like that. The point is to show his disconnect with reality.

    3. Your comment about the Paul’s mother. Now, seeing that you have links to a Bible project, various conversative blogs, homeschool info, and even a “prayer time” – you were probably offended by this character. It is one character (one FYI based on a real person who became as addicted to religion as people become to drugs; she gave over her life, including parenting her children. ) So, while you may not personally believe that religion can be as addictive and destruction, my experience is different. As it is for teens I’ve meet doing school visits — including several in Houston — who relate all too well to an adult who tells them to pray rather than helps them understand and solve their problems.

    Thanks for reading. If you’re in Houston as your links suggest, then enjoy using your Houston Public Library power card to check out books more to your liking.

  • Sherry says:

    Well, thanks for coming by, Mr. Jones. I’m sorry I had problems with the novel, but I felt I should be honest in my review.

    As for #2, as I pointed out in the review it wasn’t just the character Paul who had a disconnect-with-reality problem. His friends thought he could have managed if he saved more money. His mom thought she could afford a (private) Bible college, but not Stanford.
    And as far as #3 goes, I wasn’t so much offended by the character of Paul’s mother as I was by the assumption in your comments at the end of the book that I quoted. Yes, some people are religious fanatics, and sometimes those people neglect their children. However, other than praying for him and providing him a place to live and trying to connect with him over what was going on in his life, just what was Paul’s mother supposed to do for him? And who are you to say that prayer, the suggestion that prayer might be effective in helping to resolve emotional issues, is a dead end and the moral equivalent of abandonment? So, no, I wasn’t offended by the character, and I understood Paul’s feeling that she had “left him for religion,” but I thought your attitude toward your (minor) mom character was patronizing.

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