Saturday, October 16, 2010

Solitary

By Reviewer: Dianne
Title: Solitary
Author: Travis Thrasher
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Christian Horror
# Of pages: 392
Publisher: David C. Cook
Year of Release: 2010
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 4
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description: From Amazon:
“His Loneliness Will Soon Turn to Fear….

When Chris Buckley moves to Solitary, North Carolina, he faces the reality of his parents’ divorce, a school full of nameless faces—and Jocelyn Evans. Jocelyn is beautiful and mysterious enough to leave Chris speechless. But the more Jocelyn resists him, the more the two are drawn together.

Chris soon learns that Jocelyn has secrets as deep as the town itself. Secrets more terrifying than the bullies he faces in the locker room or his mother’s unexplained nightmares. He slowly begins to understand the horrific answers. The question is whether he can save Jocelyn in time.

This first book in the Solitary Tales series will take you from the cold halls of high school to the dark rooms of an abandoned cabin—and remind you what it means to believe in what you cannot see.”

Review: Chris and Jocelyn are both searching for a faith that neither possess. Chris has rejected God as he believes that his father’s faith is the cause of the breakup of his parents’ marriage. Jocelyn knows of the faith of her parents and seeks reassurance from a God that she doesn’t know. She feels that there is something sinister at work in the small town of Solitary and has felt that evil has been stalking her ever since her parents died in a car crash when she was six.

The story moves quickly, with much of the action taking place in Chris’s mind. You can feel the frustration that Chris experiences as no one will talk about what is going on in the town, and Chris concludes that he can trust no one. The mysterious warning notes that show up in his locker, the unearthly cold that surrounds him in the woods around his house, the strange deserted cabin in the woods and the feeling that he is always being watched all serve to put him on high alert. There is hope, as Chris considers the Bible that his father gave him before the move…Maybe that is where to find the answers… The questions abound and answers are elusive…even at the end, which leaves plenty of loose ends to be tied up in a sequel…
Rating: 3 for violence

Positive: Chris is very respectful of his mother’s feelings and is very protective of her. He has made a pledge to himself to always respect girls. Chris also has a protective instinct which comes to the fore when he steps in to defend a younger student whom he doesn’t even know who has been set upon by bullies in his high school. Chris is totally dedicated to Jocelyn and completely loyal to her.

Spiritual Elements: Much Satanic activity was implied even though there was no overt reference to Satan. The smell of sulfur, a demon dog with glowing eyes, the total absence of any indication of the celebration of Christmas, the strange message from the pastor that counsels “Don’t fear darkness…Fear the light that tries to burn it out.”, a group of people wearing red robes attending a bonfire at night…all indicate a satanic presence. The faith of Chris’s father is a thorn in Chris’s side throughout the book, but in troubled times, Chris considers what he knew of his father’s faith and wonders if it might provide some guidance. Jocelyn’s parents were Christians before their deaths and Jocelyn is comforted by that fact. She also finds answers in the Bible that Chris gave to her.

Violence: There are repeated incidents of bullying throughout the story, even to the extent that Chris is knocked out, gagged, tied up and dumped in the hole underneath an abandoned cabin in the woods. Chris is attacked and bitten by a “demon dog” when trespassing on a neighbor’s property. Jocelyn is physically abused by Wade, a “step-uncle” with whom she lives. He slaps her across the face and she shows up later with a bruised face from a beating she received at his hands. There is another incident where Wade attacked her, tearing her blouse, and hinting at attempted rape. She denied that she had been raped.

Language: None. There is the mention of hell, but in reference to the place, and not used as a profanity.

Sexual Content: There are a number of times when Chris and Jocelyn kiss and one incident of Jocelyn reaching for Chris’s belt buckle, but he rebuffs her. Jocelyn’s aunt lives with Wade, who refers to himself as Jocelyn’s “step-uncle”, but is not married to him.

Other: Chris’s mother drinks heavily on a number of occasions, to the point of being incoherent or passing out. Chris and Jocelyn attend a party after a school dance where students are drinking beer.

Recommendation: I would recommend for high school and up due to the subject matter.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Case for Faith (Student Edition)

Reviewed by: Emily
Author: Lee Strobel (with Jane Vogel)
Title: The Case For Faith (student edition)
Primary Audience/age group: 12+
Genre: non-fiction
# Of pages: 95
Publisher: Zondervan
Year of Release: 2002
Rating: 3 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes

Description (from book jacket): If God is loving, why does He allow so much suffering? If God is merciful, how could He torture people in H*ll? If God made the world, how do you explain evolution? It's not easy to believe in Christianity when questions like these tug at your heart–unless, of course there are answers... sound answers that don't just scratch the surface but satisfy you down deep... Lee Strobel knows how important it is to find answers that ring true. With his background as an award-winning legal journalist, asking tough questions has been his business... Join Lee in a fascinating journey of discovery. You'll gain powerful insights that will reshape your understanding of the Bible. And you'll read stories of people whose experiences demonstrate that faith in Jesus not only makes excellent sense, but a life changing difference.

Review: This is a fabulous book. Strobel concisely addresses many of the objections to Christianity, providing clear, logical explanations of why they need not destroy or prevent one's faith. He speaks in engaging language that can be easily understood by junior high and high school students. The book is rich with helpful charts and visuals, quotes from Bible scholars, philosophers, and scientists, and real life stories of God's work in people's lives. Strobel also encourages readers to put their faith in God and live their lives for Him. I have read this book a number of times at various points in my life, and been blessed by it each time.

Rating: 3, for brief discussion of the violence of 9/11 and one man's sexual sin.

Positive: Strobel provides clear logical evidence for the validity of the Christian faith. He provides many examples of the blessings individuals have reaped by placing their trust in God, as well as the good God has caused to come out of terrible situations. Strobel encourages readers to consider their own spiritual standing, in light of the evidence he presents, and decide to trust God, allowing Him to change their lives in amazing ways.

Spiritual Elements: In addition to discussing Christianity and quoting Bible verses, Strobel briefly discusses the beliefs of other major world religions and superstitions.

Violence: In discussing human suffering, Strobel describes some of the experiences of the 9/11 terrorist attack. While touching on some pretty graphic scenes, Strobel speaks with the objectiveness of a journalist and does not spend inordinate amounts of time describing the gruesome details.

Language: No inappropriate language.

Sexual Content: In describing a life of sin, Strobel mentions a man who is committing adultery.

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend The Case for Faith(student edition) to anyone, junior high and above, that is considering a faith in God, struggling with doubts, or wants be prepared with answers when others challenge the validity of the Christian faith. The book is a valuable resource for Christians.