A Time to Dane – Padma Venkatraman

diversity in YA, novel in verse, religious

Veda is a trained prodigy in bharatanatyam dance.  In India, she is well respected as a skilled dancer.  When a bus accident results in the partial amputation of her leg, she not only loses the ability to dance, but also her connection to the story of the dance and its significance to her culture.

Trying to overcome the unfairness of the accident is only part of her struggle, she must learn that her identity as a dancer must change or disappear altogether.  Knowing dance is in her heart, she finds strength to not only begin dancing using her prosthetic leg, but to begin many aspects of her life again.  Helping her along is her lovely grandmother who has supported Veda in dance and life and Jim, the American doctor who fixes and teaches Veda how to use her new leg.  Veda is strong and resilient and when her dance teacher refuses to continue teaching her, she finds another dance teacher who isn’t put off by her disability.  In fact, it’s at this new studio where she meets Govinda, a young dancer and dance teacher, who treats Veda as an artist.

This is a story about more than dance, but the spirituality of dance cannot be ignored.  It’s as important to the story as any character.  This is a beautiful novel about healing the mind, body, and spirit.

Everywhere in Everything

Everywhere, in everything, I used to hear music.                                                                        …

in the scents of cumin, coriander, and red chili.                                                                   Wrap my arms around Paati’s plush body.                                                                                   At night I’d hear music                                                                                                                         in the buzz of hungry mosquitoes                                                                                           swarming outside my mosquito net, …

In the grey-green hospital room                                                                                                 silence                                                                                                                                         stretches.                                                                                                                                      (42-43)

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Hades – Alexander Adornetto

love, religious, Series, Uncategorized

This is the sequel to Halo and while I normally don’t read religious focused YA, I was curious as to how the angel got kidnapped and into  Hades.  The story continues with Beth, an angel sent to Venus Cove with her fellow angels covering as her older brother and sister.  She still is in the relationship with Xavier, a human who knows all about the angels.  As the students return to school the struggles of an appeared teen suicide still haunts Beth and her friends.  On Halloween, the girls decide to do a seance – and thus, evil returns to Venus Cove.

The story is actually entertaining, if juvenile in how relationships are perceived and the stereotypes of activities in Hades occurring.  Yes, Adornetto even goes so far to not use the word “hell”, but Hades even though vocabulary is mature and violence takes place.  It’s an odd combination of innocence with Beth’s point of view on love, but then with a very obscure and impressive vocabulary.  Juvenile in plot and story – but with writing of someone who knows how to use a thesaurus!  I think this is why it’s a safe series and I have middle school girls reading it.  The romance is interesting to them and the overall point is to be more good and angelic than bad and unkind.

We do meet Lucifer (who the demons call “big daddy”) and witness traditional sins, learn the history of fallen angels, and that a glimmer of hope causes some Hades to break loose in Hades. Beth does have a few other lost souls trapped who try and help her and once she learns how to witness and connect with Xavier and her siblings, the plot continues with the angel and human brigade (my words, not the author’s) trying to find a way to rescue their angelic Beth.  So with portals to and from hell, I mean Hades, an archangel, a seraphim, and a nun to assist, and two teenage humans, the struggle for the angel who may start the apocalypse by being in Hades is real and a unique plot.

The Distance Between Lost and Found – Kathryn Holmes

Action, religious, Young Readers

If ever there was a metaphor, this title is the icing on the cake (get it?)

In all seriousness, Hallie (Hallelujah) is dealing with a deep secret and some serious isolation and bullying.  On a youth group trip, the story begins reliving the last 6 months of Hallie’s life as well as the current predicament of trying to both be invisible and also how to stand her ground towards the cause of her troubles – Luke.  She explains early on to a newcomer Rachel, that Luke didn’t raper her, but while you read you wonder what could have done to her besides that which led to rumors resulting in her friends abandoning her, her parents distrusting her, and her inner anxiety and self of irrelevancy that removed her voice, both figuratively and literally (the singing voice, that is).

On the day of a 12 mile hike with her youth group, Hallie finds herself with Rachel, both willing to lose the group and be reprimanded with being sent home.  Only they, and a once-friend, now foe Jonah, end up isolated from the group and lost in the woods ….. for days.  As the rain pours down and their energy bars soggy, the threesome realize their own damaging pasts and guilt, but know for the sake of survival they must focus as a team.  Hallie and Jonah face their past when his friendship abandoned her and together the three of them try to survive the nights and days lost in the woods.

I liked the premise, but it got a  little religious for me and my YA typical reading.  I think it’s fair to believe teenagers have these questions of when God is present, when he is not, how bad things happen, etc.  But it was a bit overkill for me.  I believe the character growth, forgiveness, and facing fear (as well as beauty in nature – yes, even on their 5th day lost, really…..) could have been covered with a little less focus on spirituality, but some may dig it.  I imagine preteens or parents of who want certain behavior from children and want them to be devout would enjoy the book.  I really liked the three friends coming together and finally Hallie stands up for herself once rescued.  But I feel the adventure and survivalist plot was overshadowed by the religious conversations.  Still, teenagers could all learn some to focus on treating people kindly and also on the skill of forgiveness so maybe I’m reading too much into this plot [get it?  another pun …. “reading into it” and it’s a novel, ha].

 

 

Halo – Alexandra Adornetto

death, religious, Series

I usually don’t read angel books, but this came recommended.  Angels are coming to Earth to try and get humanity on the right track.  This is less about going to church and more about stopping violence so I thought that was a good enough reason to begin reading.  It’s the first of a trilogy so who knows how into religion it goes, but considering the following titles are Hades and Heaven, I’m guessing it gets deeper.  What I like about this series so far is less the idea of angles and more the budding love story between Bethany (the teen angel) and Xavier.  He is School Captain and overall nice guy, but still guarded after the death of both his girlfriend and best friend.  Odd things have occurred in this town, which is why Bethany and her two siblings – both Heavenly and as a cover story for their Earthly presence – were sent.

As Bethany learns the ways of a small town and stereotypical high school experiences, she sees the good in humanity.  It isn’t until the (obvious) introduction of the mysterious, cute, British rebel that the storyline isn’t all rainbows and goodness.  It’s obvious from the beginning of meeting Jake Thorne that he will be a demon or something to counter the good (and lazily named) sibling trio, whose chosen last name is Church.

twilight_book_cover

I kept thinking this shared the obvious, and overly too perfect for each other love of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.  Two beings, from different worlds, are both drawn to one another and in a far, too dramatic in teen angst, but too mature in adult reasoning and relationship revelations type of love relationship.  In these two books, the ability to process such complex relationship issues as one would have if loving an angel from Heaven or a vampire from hundreds of years ago is not a realistic ability in maturity of the typical 17 year old.  But why try to draw reason in these plots when the series is so clearly for preteen girls just beginning to think of relationships and wanting the never-ending love that they believe is the love story waiting for them?

This has an OK storyline.  It certainly won’t offend most parents since it involves angels and at least in this first segment, it’s not too religious to offend this laid back Episcopalian.  Jake eventually gets a following and brings some demons to earth and our angels must intervene, but I am sort of curious about the next in the trilogy…… alluring most readers with the title of Hades and with the promise that a spurned and angry Jake (demon) Thorne is returning.

series

Overall, this is just as over the top teen love and high school driven plot as many YA novels where the love story is between a mortal and immortal being.  Not sure how religious it goes, but it is not subtle in showing how decisions (drinking, dating, sex, grades, responsibility) affect one’s life, which is probably a lesson many preteens need to be reminded of and one most parents wouldn’t mind this angle-mortal love story teaching.