Friday, October 30, 2015

The Bible and the Search for Self in Two YA Novels

After reading, and loving, DEVOTED in preparation for a writing retreat, something joggled in my brain and I pulled a title from my sorrily epic TBR pile: THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. What a read-beside pair! Both titles deal with teen girls who feel that they don't fit--perhaps cannot exist--within the moral and social confines of their communities.

In, THE MISEDUCATION..., Cam is a scrappy, only-child orphan living in a highly traditional Minnesota ranching town with her unmarried aunt and diabetic grandmother. And, she is a lesbian.

In, DEVOTED, Rachel is one of 10 children in a fundamentalist Texan family, lead by her father, and guided by the pastor of the Christian church they faithfully attend. And, she dreams of being more than a wife and "helpmeet" after high school.

Both Cam and Rachel are reviled for the things that make them different, which leads them to feel the pull of love for family members pushing against the need to become their most complete selves. Both Cam and Rachel interact with other young women (Coley, Lauren) who have powerful impacts on their journeys. Both Cam and Rachel must confront the Bible--down to the actual interpretation of passages--and neither simply accepts nor rejects this book but instead really thinks about its content and its implications for "imperfect" followers of the text.

How do these protagonists ultimately discover what it means to be "good," "moral," or even "whole"? I don't want to say more about the plots because I'm not fan of spoilers. And, frankly, the richest parts of both of these novels is the truth of these main characters as they search for a greater kind of Truth. Two voices that are heart-breakingly spot-on. (I can only imagine the gut-wrenching experiences of the authors as they unleashed these stories onto pages.)

It would be wonderful if happiness and fulfillment could be found by simply following a set of rules--be they biblical or otherwise. But writers and thinkers (and teens) know that nothing in life is all that simple. Here are two stories that help readers navigate the how-and-why, the-good-bad-and-ugly with thoughtfulness, intelligence and, ultimately, two unique kinds of grace.