Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book, by Nancy Rue. Zondervan, 2010, 211 pages. (Real Life series #1)
Reading Level: Middle grades, ages 10-12
Maturity Level: 5 (Ages 12-14)
Bottom line: 16-year-old Jessie’s struggles to overcome ADHD and reconcile with her father are interesting and believable, but makes Christianity look more like a 12-step program than a call to follow the Lord.
Jessie has ADHD and has learned to manage it by crafting a persona of wackiness. Her mom is bi-polar, which is harder to manage, especially when Mom goes off her meds and ends up in the hospital. Enter Dad (Lou), a former alcoholic who offers to take Jessie home to Florida for a few weeks while Mom recuperates. Jessie feels nothing but resentment for the father who abandoned her long ago, even though he claims to have reformed. But Florida looks like the only option. In the airport, Jessie happens to pick up a leather-bound book and stows it away in her backpack–even though she’s not a reader–because it feels suitably transgressive. She’s prepared to hate everything in Florida: the humidity, her room, her bratty half sister Louisa (Wheezy). Also Rocky, an employee at her dad’s motorcycle shop who happens to be equal parts gorgeous and irritating. Of course we can see where this is going: eventual bonding with Weezie, healing with Dad, and as for Rocky . . .
The book swiped from the airport is called Real Life, and Jessie’s story is the first of an intended quartet in which needy characters “happen” to pick up the leather-bound volume and discover that it talks to them. What it delivers is rather soft-core and Petersonesque–in fact, the idea is inspired by Eugene Peterson’s Eat This Book. At various points in the story, Jessie opens the book and finds an answer to the very questions she’s been asking. For example: “‘Let your enemies bring out your best,’ Yeshua says. ‘Instead of letting them make you lose it, take it as an opportunity to be your best self, your true self.’” Hey, that was easy! Motorcycles, Sushi, and One Strange Book is enjoyable to read and has some strengths, but its main weakness is the presentation of Christianity as something like a 12-step-plan to a happier life–a failing of many contemporary churches, as it happens. We can go deeper.
Overall rating: 3.75
- Worldview/moral value: 4
- Artistic value: 3.5
Categories: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult, Christian, Life Issues, Character Values