Quinn Walker and Katarina Jackson are both high school students in Northern Virginia, but they don’t seem to have much in common. Quinn is a quiet, devout Mormon boy with solid convictions and a strong sense of self, but resents feeling judged by those who criticize his faith (including Katarina’s father, a fundamentalist Christian minister who despises Mormons), and feels put upon by his family’s expectation that he will do much of the childcare for his sister’s out-of-wedlock baby, Elijah (though he loves his nephew dearly).
Katarina is tough as nails on the outside but hurting badly on the inside – her parents have been emotionally absent since the tragic death of her older brother, Roland, in a drunk-driving accident. In order to regain their attention, she has taken to acting out emotionally and sexually, involving herself in a dangerously abusive relationship with her brother’s violent and possessive best friend, Mike. Can Kat and Quinn learn to work together despite their differences, and maybe even find their path clear to falling in love? Can Quinn maintain his promise to himself to remain chaste and not make his sister’s mistake? Can Kat defend herself against Mike’s determination to keep her for himself at all costs?
Ms. Felsted writes with a sympathetic and generous heart- Quinn and Kat are likeable characters whose struggles are realistically portrayed. The religious aspect of the book is handled deftly – neither overly preachy nor intrusive, though the author’s pro-Mormon position is quite evident. Quinn shows genuine devotion to his beliefs without being either a two-dimensional saint or an unquestioning sheep, and Kat is able to grow as a character without being shoehorned into conversion or losing her own faith. The characters’ emotional conflicts are sincere and painful, their misunderstandings believable, and their resolutions neither casually nor easily bought.
The book could use a trifle of editing – there were occasional misspelled or misused words, but not many. There were likewise only occasional failures of characterization – their teacher, Ms. Williams, comes across as frankly crazy, and Katarina’s father is a bit two-dimensional in his anti-Mormon crusade, though not unrealistically so. However, these are minor flaws.
This book is more likely to be appreciated by someone who already has deeply felt religious beliefs, and especially by those already either convinced Mormons or else sympathetic to that faith, but it is by no means inaccessible even to confirmed atheists. It is a tender and caring look at two teenagers trying to cope with difficult situations in a world where mistakes can have real and damaging consequences.
Reviewed by Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader