Laura Pearl's Finding Grace.This is another Catholic Young Adult fiction title, a genre that I've been highlighting of late, and I have so enjoyed my foray into these books! Settle in with your tea, and let's discuss. :)
Finding Grace brings us an engaging coming-of-age tale, chronicling the life of our adorable heroine from the summer before she starts high school in the early 1970's, through her college years. Grace is the baby in her Irish Catholic family, with 5 older brothers, living in Northern New York State. She fears herself exceedingly plain, overshadowed by her gregarious brothers and traditionally pretty friends. With her hard-to-control curly hair, glasses, and more reserved nature, Grace finds herself often overshadowed both at home and at school. Adding to her awkwardness is the fact that her last name is "Kelly;" As Grace Kelly, she is compared to one of the most beautiful women of all time when she finds herself to be anything but. We follow Grace as she journeys through high school, falls in love with a boy who is in love with her best friend, and wrestles with moral issues common to this age. Namely: personality conflicts and the meaning of Christian charity, endeavoring to have healthy family, friendship and romantic relationships, Church teaching and the authority it has over our lives, premarital sex, and abortion all play a role in the story.
Woven through the fabric of the narrative is Grace's new interest in the lives of the saints, which was enkindled during a recent conversation with her devoutly Catholic father. Grace has always loved her faith, and it's a huge part of her life through her family and her Catholic school. But she is now about to be a young adult, and she feels called to make her faith her own. How can *she* strive to be a saint as well?
As Grace encounters the bumps in life that are so painfully familiar to all of us, she draws inspiration from relevant saints. St. Therese of Lisieux and her Little Way of holiness is a particular favorite of hers, but plenty of other saints come into play as well. This is the *perfect* way to capture the imagination of young adults and draw them to the fact that the Catholic faith is so much more than simply attending Mass on Sundays, which they likely find quite "boring," and rather can be a fascinating part of their daily lives.
This book is positively lovely, and is ideal for older teenagers experiencing the pressures of this difficult portion of life. There were parts that made me laugh out loud, parts that made me cry (HARD; I woke Mike up one night accidentally when I had to get out of bed to fetch the tissue box and blow my nose), and parts that made me cringe because I SO.VERY.MUCH related to what Grace was going through. I mean, seriously - are there certain mistakes that we are genetically predisposed to all make?! Uuuuugggghhhhh. Just thinking back on that time, I want to slap some sense into myself sometimes, but I know it wouldn't have done any good, because we thought we had life all figured out.
Humility. It is a tough lesson to learn oftentimes. :)
I couldn't wait to see how things would turn out for Grace and her friends. Who will get the boy? Does Grace maybe have a call to the religious life? What will become of the friends who are starting to follow the "wisdom" of the age and veer from their Catholic upbringing? Will Grace ever blossom and see the beauty in herself?
This isn't a quick read, and for good reason. The book captures important moments in a young adult's life, and fleshes them out into a wonderful, relatable story that will grab your heartstrings. As an adult, this book made me nostalgic, and realize how much work I still have to do to make my faith a bigger priority in my life. Do we ever fully grow up? ;-) For young adults, I strongly suspect they will identify with the winningly charming Grace and want to try her approach to life with the saints.
Finding Grace is currently $4.99 for Kindle (bargain!) or $13.29 in print. I certainly learned a lot from reading it (I always do from stories of how another person lives out their faith, even those much younger than I), and I think it would make an excellent gift for slightly older teenagers mature enough to handle the moral issues I mentioned above. Do consider purchasing the work of our superb Catholic authors - quality fiction like this depends upon our support!
Stay tuned two weeks hence for the next official installment in the Catholic Book Club - we will stay with Catholic fiction, but move over into the adult realm - Don't You Forget About Me, by Erin McCole Cupp. Cristina and I will be doing a joint feature on this book, complete with an interview with Erin. If you'd like to read along with us, the book is only $3.99 right now for Kindle! Join us!
If you've read Laura's Finding Grace, please do leave a comment with your thoughts!