Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bitter Blessings: A Book Review

I love to read.

I love to read almost anything: magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, and books of all kinds, of course. Poor David. It made him crazy when we were packing dishes with newspaper and he'd look over to see me distracted over yet another article in the months-old newspaper.

It's a bit of a problem.

I have a special place in my heart for Young Adult literature. I loved YA literature before I was a YA, while I was a YA, and now that my children are YAs. (I haven't resolved the dilemma of parenting children who are at the age I was when I was pretty sure I knew more than the adults around me...let's just say that I am almost ready to claim adulthood at nearly 40, but it's taken me 20 years to accept this "new" stage in my life.)

I also have a special place in my heart for Christine Mehring. Christine and I have been friends for almost 15 years. She is a brave, wise, funny, loyal, thoughtful, and cool woman with a fascinating life story. And she's always been one of my favorite writers, even if only in emails. I'm not going to share any of these emails with you. This is your loss, because she's kept me afloat many a day, made me laugh, and described the world in ways I think but can never write.

I was thrilled to get an advance copy of Christine's new book, Bitter Blessings. It combines two things I love: YA fiction and Christine. Bitter Blessings is due for release near the beginning of July, but one of you lucky readers can get an advance copy.

Despite my early affinity for LDS YA writing (Jack Weyland, how I loved you...) I will admit that my later return to writing with a Mormon background has left me a little jaded. I began the book not knowing that Christine's subject matter would involve LDS characters and situations. And while some of these situations are typical for LDS teen fiction, Bitter Blessings read much truer to me than I would expect from the genre.

The book blurb is: "Megan has the perfect life, but when her mother dies in an accident, everything spins out of control. With the rest of her family falling apart, Megan must confront her past to uncover the truths that will keep everyone together. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, this book shows that even in times of trial, you can often find blessings."

The characters in Bitter Blessings are well-fleshed out. Megan is a multi-faceted teen girl with a big heart and some misconceptions. After the death of her mother, her sister's life spins out of control. While trying to help save her sister from her foolish choices, Megan finds herself with her own difficult choices to make. While she discovers truths about her sister, she also finds unexpected truths about herself, the rest of her family and her best friend, Adam.

The plot has a little romance, a little intrigue, and a lot of life lessons. One of the beautiful things about the book is that the troubles are not easily resolved, and some are not resolved at all. I'm finding more and more that real life doesn't often hand us our problems fixed, tied up in neat little packages, with happy resolutions. Sometimes we face really really sucky decisions. Sometimes we can't make everyone happy. Megan finds this to be the unfortunate case, as well. Happy endings don't mean that everything ends perfectly. Happy endings come when we make the best out of a hard situation and choose to live happily. I loved this quote from the book:
I’ve come to realize that our Father in Heaven wants to bless us—He wants to bless us beyond what we can imagine. Sometimes we’re too comfortable where we are, and we dig in our heels, and He has to pull us kicking and screaming to the blessing He wants us to have, and it’s only after we’re there that we can look back and see His hand, see that He was there all along helping and guiding even when it felt like the world was falling down around us.
I'm thrilled to have been able to review Bitter Blessings. I am glad to recommend it to you as a well-written YA book with enough suspense to keep the plot moving, relatable characters, and real life messiness. If you want a copy, comment! We'll choose one of you at random and announce the winner in a couple of days.

12 comments:

Jana K said...

It sounds like a wonderful book. I'm always so impressed by the talent of writing. I just don't have a fraction of it. But I love to read well written books. I love when the author can describe a feeling or situation that I have felt and do it so precisely and eloquently. The quote from the book you posted does exactly that. Whether I get the book or not, I want to read it and support local talent.

Liz said...

Look at you having contests on your blog!!! I'd love to win a book that my dear friend Kerri enjoyed...my dear friend who I need to see and hang out with desperately! I, too, will read the book even if I do not win the random drawing! :)

Danielle said...

Pick me, pick me! We should have a book swap or something. I say "we" but I really mean someone other than me needs to set it up. See how I am? Does the book include a personal delivery?

Gaylene said...

I would love to be picked as well! Love a good read--How are you by the way! Miss you all lots and lots!

Karin Webb said...

So glad to be counted as one of your readers! And this sounds like a book that my YA daughter (and myself) would like. Pick me!!!

Lori said...

Sounds like a great book. Love reading and getting taken away, at least for a while, in a good book. Love you guys and miss you.

Tracy said...

I second everything you said about Christine. I wish I could second your love of reading. To be honest, I have started about 6 books in the last year. All were good... but never finished them. I can count the number of books I have read IN MY LIFE on one hand. How I would love to include my other hand! Oddly, three of the books I have read are LDS YA (both Jack Weyland!) And just this summer alone, my 16 year old has read 4 of his books. I think I am ready for Bitter Blessings... and so is my daughter. Bring it on!!! I promise to finish this one. I love the author too much!

Tracy said...

I second everything you said about Christine. I wish I could second your love of reading. To be honest, I have started about 6 books in the last year. I WANT to read! All were good... but never finished them. I can count the number of books I have read IN MY LIFE on one hand. How I would love to include my other hand! Oddly, three of the books I have read are LDS YA (both Jack Weyland!) And just this summer alone, my 16 year old has read 4 of his books. I think I am ready for Bitter Blessings... and so is my daughter. Bring it on!!! I promise to finish this one. I love the author too much not too!

rhae said...

Thanks for introducing Siobhan and I to a new author. I will have to look into this book. My kids haven't read much LDS YA lit but I am happy to give it a try with a solid recommendation. We love it when we like a local author (like Shannon Hale-Siobhan's favorite author and Brandon Mull-Duncan's favorite author)

Lara said...

Putting it on the (ever-growing) to-read list.

Kristin said...

I would love to read it! And would love to try an LDS YA book again. I remember reading Jack Weyland years ago, but I haven't read anything more current in this genre.

Wendi said...

ME ME ME! Pick ME!!! A most amazing author and just as equally amazing reviewer! (does that get me a few more slips in the bowl?)