Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
**This book was given to me in exchange for my honest review**
Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars
I wasn’t expecting to get caught up in this story as much I was, especially because I was in the middle of reading a really good book series. However, I felt that if I didn’t read it now, I might not ever get to it. And I’m pretty glad I did.
First off, I wouldn’t label this a Christian book, although there are themes of religion and Christianity involved. Being raised in a Christian church and going to a Christian college, I’m familiar with some of the settings. However, the description about the main character’s faith in God was kind of what drew me to it.
Braden is the main protagonist, and basically, his family is all kinds of dysfunctional. Since he lives in a small-town community, you’d think his dad being accused for murder wouldn’t gain national attention, but it does for two reasons: who his dad is accused of murdering, and that fact that his dad is an outspoken Christian radio host.
When Braden’s brother comes back to town after being gone nine years without any communication with Braden of their father, things start to unfold about the life that Braden has been living.
It’s a painfully realistic story of how so many kids and teens can and have been manipulated by those in authority, and in many cases, by their parents. Not only that, because of his belief that God will make everything right in a conventional sense only exacerbates the confusion and low self-esteem in himself.
Although he knows he’s a good pitcher, we get to know just how low in the totem pole he thinks he is, and it’s a sad and brutal look at the life of a boy so subtly manipulated into thinking that only one person can love who he truly is.
But during the worst time of his life, when he thinks his whole world is falling apart, as it seems to be the case, we also see a boy climbing out of his shell and finding his own path, be it in some odd rebellious way. It’s a tough road to watch him go through, and sometimes you think, how could one boy deal with all these ever-growing problems? How can he overcome this situation when all these other things keep piling up.
And you might be surprised at how things go in the end for him and his family.
What I liked about this story is that I could imagine there are Bradens in this world. Braden could’ve been a classmate of mine that I didn’t really know. He could be living his life next door in a psychologically damaging situation and I wouldn’t know anything about it. There are many teenagers that live life thinking their parents are the best parents in the world. Some are the best parents to their kids, but some are most definitely not. And it doesn’t have to be in a physical abuse type of way. It can be subtle, like in this story.
The realism is the idea that the dysfunction of this family doesn’t start with that father, but that it probably started with the father’s father. Ultimately, though, each person is responsible for their own mistakes, and sometimes people fail at fixing those mistakes before it affects those they love.
There are many complex issues involved in this story, sometimes too complex to really deal with in this one book, but how its dealt with in the story is thought-provoking, not radical.
The only thing that worries me is the idea that in these days, putting people of faith in a bad light often becomes the reason for many to disallow the presence of God in their lives. Still, the story doesn’t disregard God completely. And it doesn’t put other issues on a pedestal, either, but only acknowledges them as part of the complexities of being a human.
Each character brings something cohesive to the story, and I appreciated that, because it showed how different we can be when it comes to certain topics, especially love and faith. In that sense, I couldn’t hate any of the characters for their flaws, even the father (even though I’m sure many probably thought worse of him.) I did, however, feel much pity for Braden’s dad.
In the end, I felt it was satisfactory in the way that there’s hope for Braden to find the good within himself. I’m not too particular with somewhat open endings, but this was just fine.
The reason the book didn’t get a higher rating from me was I found that the writing, or maybe the sentence structure in general, confused me at times where it pulled me out of the story and I had to reread it to understand what the author was trying to convey.
There are also several flashback scenes throughout the book and for me, it was sometimes hard to find when the story went from the flashback to the present again. I’m hoping that maybe that was only because I was reading it in e-book format and there wasn’t a way for me to set the font to publisher default, thus putting everything in the same font/style. Hopefully this will be rectified in the print version of the book and in with publisher default availability in the official e-book.
But aside from the that, the story was solid and honest and heartening. And despite my middle-ground rating, I do recommend this book mainly because I liked Braden and I like to think the Bradens in this world can get a chance to find the right path, with God’s help, too.
Conviction is scheduled to be released on May 19, 2015