Recently a friend told me about a teen novel she and her granddaughter were reading. I had heard of the novel–very popular novel. My friend said the writing was outstanding and I should take a look at it.

I did. My friend was right. The writer’s plot was riveting and her writing style was jaw-droppingly fresh and hip. No surprise there her granddaughter liked the novel.

However, the novel was disturbing. The protagonist who had suffered a severe trauma was morally, psychologically and spiritually bankrupt. Many of her friends were as well. Her parents were not there for her; they were self-absorbed and themselves traumatized. God was not on her radar. She was on the ledge–suicide to her seemed her best option.

At the end of the book the girl was restored with support from some new friends and her own inner resources. (God was never given even a nod for His part in rescuing such lives.) I was glad the protagonist made it through,  but the book’s powerful, negative voice was hard to shake. (I was depressed much of the time I was reading the novel.) Would teen readers also catch, like a virus, the protagonist’s helpless and hopeless attitude? For a time–probably. Would it last even longer?  I voiced my concerns to my friend when we later talked about the novel. She agreed that the novel could have a negative impact, but then she said something that I think you might want to hear. She said that she and her granddaughter had had some great conversations about what the book was saying and what it was not saying about life, especially the part that faith and good parenting can play. In that way the book became quite helpful.

Focus on the Family has reports with talking points on a number of tween and teen books on its website. You might want to check it out. Focus on the Family

It occurs to me that when the kids were little and learning to read, we read along with them. It helped them become better readers. As they become tweens and teens, I think it would be good if, like my friend, we read some of the books they are reading and then think along with the kids. It would help them become better thinkers.