May 3, 2012

Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson review

Saving Maddie cover
Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing. Until Maddie comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, cusses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.

As time goes on, Josh goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Josh further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?

From Goodreads

Joshua & Maddie are not star-crossed lovers. Rather, these two are the best & truest of friends. They share a different kind of love that goes beyond what anyone thinks about them. As children they spent all their time together in and out of church while their fathers were the ministers preaching the gospel. But when Maddie's father is transferred to another parish, Maddie & Joshua vow to write each other every day to keep in touch. For a while that works until Maddie stops writing back.

Eventually Joshua gives up writing her & begins to move on with his faith by being the pinnacle preacher's son. He leads the youth group, he volunteers at the nursing home & he even abstains from all morally compromising situations. While it makes him an outcast at parties (who really wants to drink alcohol & get frisky with their date with the preacher's kid?) Joshua has settled into a comfortable existence. And just like that Maddie shows up all dark & jaded.

Now Joshua has to decide who he's living his life for & why. There are so many questions & so little time. Events are escalating all over town with pressure from every imaginable direction baring down on Joshua. The only thing he can do is choose, but who & what?

I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I was expecting it to be in all the right ways. As a teen I spent a week each summer at a church camp in the mountains of North Carolina. While we were all feeling our way around our faith, there were several campers who were preacher's kids (pk's) that we all looked to for example & spiritual guidance. The second day of my sophomore year one of them said it wasn't easy to be a pk & that they were just as lost as we were. While they had a duty to uphold & represent their parent's ministry, they were really just putting on a brave face because it's what was expected of them.

Joshua is in the exact same predicament. He's been following the predetermined path thinking he had free will all along until free will actually showed up & said 'hi.' Now he's kind of floating along trying to wrestle not only with his faith, but his family, his friends, his emotions & definitely his hormones. Maddie is the typical rebel, except she's deeply spiritual leading the reader to become endeared to her. Able to quote chapter & verse on command, Maddie is also lost. Unlike Joshua though, she claims she doesn't want to find the right path.

There is so much going on in this book that I felt consumed by it. Again, in a good way. It has been a long time since I have really been able to soak up the feeling of a book & completely relate to all characters involved. No one in this book is anywhere near perfect, but they all blend together to make you understand that that's okay.

Truly, I don't have enough words to adequately explain my love for this book. While there are many "controversial" topics (sex, alcohol, promiscuity, etc) they are needed in the context of the book & the main characters' struggles. I think I'd feel comfortable with a 7th or 8th grader reading this, as long as they could question anything & everything they read. :)


Bookworm1858 said...

I really liked Joshua-he was a relatable guy and a great character. His discussions with Maddie and with the other characters about religion were fun to read.

loreleimarsh said...

They really were fun to read! I was kind of surprised by that because religion can be a tricky thing to make engaging in a YA novel, but this was very well done.