Monday, June 16, 2008

Carter House Girls

This part of the post has been removed.

Mixed Bags by Melody Carlson is the first book in the Carter House Girls series. DJ's grandmother, a former supermodel, has opened up her large Victorian home to five other girls in hopes of turning them all into debutantes. DJ is au naturel: no make-up, hair tucked up in a baseball cap, and completely ignorant of designer labels. So sharing her home and even room with girls who look like they stepped off of the pages of Vogue does a number on her self-esteem. Taylor and Eliza and beautifully dressed and self-assured. Kriti is a lovely Indian girl who wants to go far academically. Rhiannon and Casey are Grandma Carter's charity cases. Rhiannon has come to faith in spite of her mother's drug addiction. Casey's parents believe she's in need of an intervention with the safety pins through her eyebrows and Goth style make-up. Throwing all of these girls into one house ensures plenty of drama and clashing personalities. I am thoroughly impressed with Zondervan's willingness to attack real teenage issues head on. Some of these girls are sexually active, one smokes, some drink; these are not your stereotypical Christian fiction teens. They break the rules and each other without a second thought. But Carlson gives each girl a real personality with quirks and failings. We see events primarily though DJ's eyes, and she struggles with figuring out who she is and want she really wants, just like every other real world teen. This promising introduction to the series definitely leaves the reader wanting more.

Stealing Bradford by Melody Carlson is the second book in the Carter House Girls series. The personalities of the girls have been well established in the first book, now we get to see how they react to high school. Rhiannon and long time boyfriend Bradford seem perfect for each other until Taylor sets her sights on him, setting up the title of the book. When they split up, all of the other girls of Carter House set their sights on bringing Taylor down. Taylor is an over-the-top witch with a b, but as DJ spends more time with her, her vulnerability begins to show through, and it forces DJ to step forward in her faith. DJ's growing faith is refreshing and makes a nice addition to the series. Because she didn't grow up in a Christian home, everything about Christianity is new to her, and some of the toughest lessons for teens (or anyone): judge not, lest ye be judged, and love your neighbors and your enemies are struggles for her. My one disappointment for this book was the ending. Having recently read I Heart Bloomberg, I was surprised to find that Carlson had used an almost identical plot device in that book. While the two books have different audiences, it's not a good practice for an author.