Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Book Review: Hope's Journey by Stephanie Worlton

Title: Hope's Journey
Author: Stephanie Worlton
Enjoyment Rating: ***
Source: PDF supplied by author
Books I've read this year: 62

Stephanie Worlton's novel Hope's Journey, follows the story of Alex and Sydney, high school seniors living in the Salt Lake valley. Sydney is trying to choose between her many scholarship offers. Alex is planning to spend the year biding his time at college while he prepares for his mission. And they're both trying to "be good"-- which they're finding really hard to do since they're completely in love with each other and overwhelmingly attracted to each other. In fact, they've already slipped up a few times, and they're not sure if they can stay together and keep their hands off each other.

And then Sydney discovers that she's pregnant.

I'm going to talk about the novel in two different ways-- first I want to talk about what it does, and then I want to talk about how it does it. Hope's Journey is an important book, I'd even say a necessary story that our culture needs to hear. Worlton documents the ambivalence that both Alex and Sydney feel, the confusion and anger that they both experience, the judgment that Sydney experiences every day as her belly grows, the double standard that allows Alex to remain relatively free from judgment and even to date other people during Sydney's pregnancy, the pressure Sydney feels to put the baby up for adoption, the economic realities that face teen parents, and the role that prayer and repentance play in their lives. It's an interesting, nuanced story, and Worlton admits that it was influenced by her own experience becoming a teenage mother. I think it's one that should be widely read by Young men and Women, not as a cautionary tale but as one that shows the full ramifications of an act that Worlton doesn't even mention by name (I'm not sure that the book even says "sex" once, which probably says a lot about our culture). I also think it's an important book for families, friends, acquaintances of someone who is or has been in Sydney and Alex's shoes.

That said, the book wasn't always easy to read. I don't fault Worlton for this as much as I fault Cedar Fort, which published the novel. I've read a lot of Cedar Fort books over the last few years, and they all suffer from a lack of thorough editing. In this case, the most problematic thing for me is Alex's voice-- he's characterized as a handsome high school jock, but his prose, especially his thoughts, are really flowery-- they're not the way an 18-year-old guy would talk. There are also a few places where story lines could have been tied up better-- what happened to the red truck? Why did Sydney's brother decide to stay home from his mission? What happened with Alex's evil mom? And then there are the excess of adjectives, the dialogue that doesn't really work, the minor misspellings. These are the kinds of things a good editor should catch. It's kind of a shame, in this case, because it's an accessible, instructive, interesting story, but it could have been better than it is with a really close, careful editing.

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