Paperback: 328 pagesRight off the bat I am going to say the major theme off this book is SEX. Or rather, it is a fiction story written in hopes to help teens consider their choices they face in regards to pre-martial sex.
Publisher: Kapri Books (August 6, 2007)
Buy the Book: Amazon
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Five teenage girls make decisions about boyfriends and premarital sex: Shauntice lives in a world of domestic abuse. Her dad beats her mother, so this Christian teen is not sure she wants a boyfriend. Angel has a mother who is never around, she doesn't know who her earthly father is and she doesn't care about the heavenly Father. She became promiscuous to fill a void. LaKeeta is a Christian, but instead of doing it God's way and waiting for marriage, she has sex out of wedlock. She is sixteen and pregnant. Bridgette feels strongly about abstaining from sex and she will not compromise her beliefs. But this young Christian still has her flaws. Hope is so shy that she's barely heard when she speaks. She lives a sheltered life because of her mother's strict rules, and the word 'sex' isn't in her vocabulary... until she suffers a loss. CHOICES is young adult fiction for mature readers.
The book follows a group of teens, specifically five African American seventeen year-old girls, as they navigate their everyday lives. Each girl has her own set of difficulties. One has a physically abusive dad, another has an insanely controlling mom, and another has a mom who is never there for her daughter. One girl is pregnant, another lets herself be sexually used, the others put themselves in compromising situations. You get the idea. They are playing the game of life we all do.
I have no doubt that the author’s intentions in writing the book were in hopes that her readers would connect with one or more of the characters. I think she did a good job of that, as it seems very unlikely anyone could get through their teens, or at minimum college, without finding themselves in at least one of the circumstances in the book. She also does a pretty decent job concluding the stories of each of the girls.
A couple things should be considered when reading the book. Considering the major theme of the book, the sexual content is pretty heavy. Yet, it is obvious the story was designed specifically to help challenge a teen to make good choices about their sexual activity. I would consider this an ideal starting point for healthy conversations with an adult or teen group about sex rather than a reason to not read the book.
The other main point which needs to be considered is that Choices is very Christian. Even if the author did not intend this book to be a Christian book, it undoubtedly comes across as one. All throughout the book, the conversation always turns back to God, the Bible, knowing Jesus, going to church, etc... But although the book is obviously promoting abstinence and being a Christian, it doesn’t imply Christians are great people. The author confronts hypocrisy and judgemental Christians in the book. Also, one of the characters is forced by her mom to be the stereotypically sheltered, naive, frumpy Christian girl. I have the feeling the author wanted to connect with her readers, Christian or not, while trying to help them see that they just have to have a relationship with Jesus, not be legalistic. I should note that not all Christians would agree with the way divorce was handled in the story. But besides that, from a theological perspective (for the parents who care about that) the author seemed right on.
Yet, although personally share the same beliefs as the author, and love it that she wants to challenge teens to make good decisions about sex, I really had a hard time enjoying the book. This is partially because it wasn’t written for me as its audience, not being a teenager. But although it was decent, it wasn’t extremely creative or captivating. It was mostly just relational.
One of the things that bugged me was that the author used an insane amount of “Christianese” when she talks about spiritual stuff in the story. For example, the teens in the book would be talking about “fornicating” in their everyday conversation. Seriously? Who uses that word? Some Bible translations do, yes, but in conversation? I grew up in a church, straight from good ol’ American Christian culture, where I used a lot of the lingo she uses. I could follow it. But even though I could follow it (even agreeing with what she was saying) I just started skimming ahead. And if the reader didn’t learn those terms, or didn’t understand Christianity before reading this book, I think it is pretty likely they would get lost, shut down and not connect with much of the story.
In addition, it was probably slightly harder for me to connect with Choices because I am not black. Truthfully, I am not that familiar with African American culture. This was a part of the book I actually liked, as it helped me peak into a slightly different culture which I have friends within and is found all around me in the United States. Myself being a person who is all into anthropology, studying different cultures, I thought this was cool.
Although I feel this book might be a little too Christian for non-Christians, it could have a good audience within Christian circles. As there is definitely a message being taught in the story, I’d be surprised if it was the first book a teen would pick up for leisure reading. But a teen would read it if their parent gave it to them, or they could read it with friends in their youth group. I realize the book’s honesty about sex could make it a little scary for parents to allow their kids to read it. But, if you are one of those parents, maybe this is the book you need to let your kids read when it comes to sex. Let me be clear, my personal belief is that sex in YA books is usually unnecessary (Check out Andye’s post about Sex in YA books here). But as I also undoubtedly believe sex needs to be talked about with teens, and there is a meaningful reason why this book is about sex, I am great with it. You see, I had great parents, a great youth group, and I was the good (although somewhat sheltered) girl as a teen. But I am amazed I didn’t fall into something bad, mainly because my great support system around me did not talk to me about sex much (besides “don’t do it”). Although Choices wasn’t really my type of book, and it does have a lot of shortfalls, I hope there is a book like it around when my daughter is a teen, aiding us in talking about sex in a healthy but realistic way.
There is mild use of profanity, but where the “B” word is used just one time, the other character in the scene totally condemned the use of such language. I don’t really consider this book as having profanity in it. There are a few characters in the book who use some verbally abusive language, though. Also, due to the description of rape scene (unpleasant but not totally graphic), I rate this book as having heavy violence. Again, there is also physical abuse and a fight scene in the book. Lastly, miscarriage, death of a loved one, and drinking are also elements within the book. I am actually very surprised, given the nature of the story, abortion isn’t a topic which comes up.