R.J. Anderson (rj_anderson) wrote,
R.J. Anderson
rj_anderson

My friend and erstwhile co-author Jeri Massi (we collaborated on a proposal and sample chapter for a Doctor Who novel a few years ago, but unfortunately BBC Books turned it down) has just had her young adult novel Valkyries published by Moody Publishers. My copies (the story takes up two substantial volumes) arrived from Amazon.ca a couple of days ago, and since then I have been ignoring a stack of library books in order to read them.

I just posted the following review to Amazon, but I'll duplicate it here:
Jeri Massi's two-volume story Valkyries has been billed as "a hard-hitting novel about the grace of God". The description is indeed apt, because this story pulls no punches. It is by far the most honest, compelling, non-stereotypical, and thought-provoking Christian novel for young adults that I have ever read.

The heroine, Tracey, is not some paper saint -- she is a fully believable character whose struggles and doubts are very real. Nor are the challenges that she faces as a young believer downplayed or oversimplified. As Tracey seeks to grow in her newfound faith and take a stand for Christ in a hostile environment, the errors she makes and the failures and disappointments she experiences teach important truths about God's mercy, grace, and love. Yet the story is far from preachy, and the lessons are never glib.

One of the most remarkable things about this story is the richness and depth of the characterization. Although Tracey's conversion from Catholicism and her subsequent opposition to Catholic doctrines and practices are central to the book, the Catholic characters are not demonized, nor the evangelicals glorified. Neither can any one of the characters be reduced to a mere stereotype -- not even the apparent villains of the piece, like Tracey's abusive father or the harshly dictatorial principal of her Catholic school. Each person Tracey meets, regardless of their beliefs, is portrayed as a real human being, with virtues as well as faults. As such, the story rings true to life.

The dialogue in the book flows easily and naturally from the characters, without any of the golly-gee hokiness or wooden diction that infects many Christian novels. It also shows real wit -- some of the quips made by Tracey's schoolmates are laugh-out-loud funny -- yet the humour is never forced or contrived. The narrative style of the novel is highly readable, clear and straightforward, providing just enough detail to create a picture in the reader's mind while spare enough to keep the action moving right along.

Although Tracey's story unfolds slowly, each scene advances the plot, adds interest and depth to the characters, and none of it feels superfluous or wasted. I am a non-athlete and have no interest in team sports as a rule, but Tracey's high school basketball career -- an element which is crucial to the book, and not presented merely to add excitement or to glorify sport for its own sake -- is so skilfully described that I was captivated by it.

Reading Valkyries, I was moved to both laughter and tears -- a rare experience for me. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading a forthright, uncompromising, and deeply moving portrayal of what it really means to be a Christian and a child of God.
Just loaned Volume One to a friend, who like Tracey was raised nominally Catholic but later became an evangelical Christian... we'll see what he has to say about it.
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