He held out a necklace with a pendant on it. It read, 90% angel. “They didn’t have one that said 100% angel,” he said. Usually, when one of the nicest, cutest guys in school gives you a gift, it’s a compliment.
And, thanks to my father totally not getting that, when I told him where I got it (with my uncle sitting there listening in and muttering, “Pride goes before a fall,”), it earned me a nice walk down our dirt road and a lecture on my self-righteousness.
I don’t think he ever learned that it was probably the only time in my entire high school career that I wasn’t being self-righteous.
Kids at my private Christian school thought I was “Evangeline” (another lovely nickname that wasn’t meant as a compliment) because I liked being superior. What they didn’t know is that I knew I wasn’t.
I knew that I was a mess inside.
Which is why, of course, I worked like a dog to get phenomenal grades—to graduate early. Not that it did me any good at home. I’d arrive with a 98% on a test thanks to misreading one of the questions. My mom’s response: “Why isn’t it a hundred?”
I’d come home the next day with 100% on my hardest test yet. My dad’s response, “Why aren’t they all hundreds?”
For those who think I exaggerate, I don’t. That happened during the fall of my senior year. I got so worked up about it that for a few short weeks, I really believed that if I went home with anything less than perfection, my father would beat me.
Note to the wise. Wouldn’t have happened.
In fact, I remember the moment that I realized that. I felt so stupid for ever imagining it.
Since I couldn’t possibly be that perfect in my academics (I took between four and six tests a week sometimes), I switched to my spiritual life. Bible reading, prayer, giving, fasting, singing with the youth group, attending every Bible study, church service, youth group function, and even services at churches in other towns on Sunday nights since we met in the afternoon at ours.
I recall with perfect clarity the day when the woman who baptized me (our church often had women baptizing women and men baptizing men—she wasn’t a minister/pastor/etc.) pulled me aside and said, “Chautona, the Lord has washed away your sins. You’re clean. In His sight, you are pure and holy. You do not have to try to live this perfect life. You couldn’t, even if you tried.” Relief like you’ve never felt washed over me.
Seriously, I walked around on cloud nine for about two weeks.
Then I signed up to go in a mission program. Nine months of study. Two to three years on the field. Yeah. Totally learned that lesson, didn’t I?
If you’d told me that just over a year from that date, I’d be sitting in my parents living room, my baby asleep in her crib, and my father screaming at me that I was a “callous, insensitive monster” because I didn’t know that I’d overheated my child in a car without air conditioning… I’d have laughed at you.
After all, I was going to Bible school. I was going on the mission field. I was “Evangeline.”
God had other plans.
Those plans included horrific ugliness followed by the worst news you could have ever told this girl. Blue water in a pregnancy test. Positive.
Not gonna lie. I never wanted kids. None. And yet, the minute I realized that I was pregnant, it didn’t matter to me how that happened. What mattered was that baby.
Christians told me God would understand if I aborted it. It wasn’t my fault. It would ruin my life. Abortion in some cases is totally justifiable.
I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, but I can now.
It doesn’t matter how inconvenient, how horrible the circumstance, or how traumatizing it is to go through the social stigma of being an unwed mother, it isn’t that baby’s fault. Period. #lifeisachoice #prolife
God had a beautiful plan for my life. That experience taught me things my stubborn, sinful self couldn’t learn any other way. I learned compassion for those who chose sin over the Savior. My self-righteousness took a huge hit.
I stood in church and listened with my jaw on the floor as a man looked at my huge belly, my ringless hand, and over at my friend, Kevin, and said, “So, are you going to make this kid legitimate?”
For the record, that other guy, Kevin? He didn’t deck the dude. I still am amazed at that.
Instead, he married me almost a year later.
(Psst… that guy? He’s the “real” Chuck Majors. Thought you oughtta know).
What does all this have to do with YA books and perceptions?
When I saw the synopsis for The Deceived, I knew I had to read it. See, I was Danny’s older sisters—all of them rolled up in one messed up package who thought more highly of herself than she ought. I empathized with Danny over his father, his life, his frustrations.
I could have made the terrible decisions I knew the character would make, and I wanted to see if I guessed right. So, I requested a review copy and it appeared. Voila. Time to read.
I didn’t expect what I found.
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3 Ways This YA Novel Will Challenge Your Perceptions
Teens do care what their family/parents think about them.
I really think Kelly Harrel nailed Danny Morton’s feelings on this one. He doesn’t want to care what the family thinks, but he does. And, when he doesn’t live up to their expectations, it affects how he thinks of himself.
Teens are both stronger and more fragile than we think.
And unfortunately, often in the opposite areas that we imagine. We expect teenage boys to have no control over their hormones (and girls to have to be the stoplight on that one) and that if they can resist drugs and alcohol for an extended period of time, they won’t ever give in to that temptation. We see both truth and lies in how both of these play out in the story—and both of them in unexpected scenarios.
Adults were teens once, so we understand what it’s like.
Again, true and false. Never in my life has anyone offered me drugs. Trust me, they were in my school. My best friend in high school used them (and both my mom and I believed her when she said she never would because they were so bad for your complexion). The only guy who ever pressured me in any physical way would never have pressured me to actually have sex. It wouldn’t have happened.
That may not be every late-80s high school student’s experience, but it was mine. Even alcohol wasn’t offered. If I wanted it, I just had to ask my dad for a drink of his beer. It just wasn’t a thing for me.
Compare that to kids of ten and eleven seeing people having sex in our local library restrooms, and no. I’m sorry. I don’t understand what it’s like today.
I think Kelly Harrel does a great job of showing that.
On the other hand, some things never change. Parents trying to live their lives through their kids. I saw that as a kid. I felt that as a kid. Feeling like no one understands? Yeah. That hasn’t changed.
So, do I recommend The Deceived?
That depends. There are two strong marks against it. First, it’s written in first-person present tense. I’ll give the author credit. She does a better job of helping me get past that once about half the book is over. But seriously, it was HARD to read and I found myself wanting to skim. A lot. However, this is my personal issue, and I did not remove a star for it (no matter how much I wanted to).
Second, it ends so abruptly that I thought I’d gotten a messed up review copy. Only after checking other reviews to see if it was just me did I realize that it was intended to end with zero resolution of anything. Yes, it’s the first in a series. I also agree with the concept of where it ended! However, it wasn’t written in a way that gave you a hint that this is going to be the end soon. The same ending, written just a little differently, would have had the same impact on the reader without such a disappointing ending for the reader.
Am I sorry that I requested a review copy?
No… I probably wouldn’t have read it if I hadn’t requested it, and I am glad I read it. I may even read the next in the series, but I’m not chomping at the bit to.
Who do I recommend it for?
- Christian kids who feel like no one gets what it’s like to be a Christian kid from a Christian home where everyone expects perfection because “you know what is right.”
- Readers who just love YA fiction.
- People who really want to understand how a “good kid” can go wrong.
For other YA novels, try THIS one.