Books Review – Diary of a Teenage Girl (series)

Diary of a Teenage Girl
Kim #1 Just Ask 2005
Maya #2 It’s a Green Thing 2008
Melody Carlson
Paperback

 

Okay, I got these two books from the library sale, thinking that they were one and two of a series. I got them home and got a better look at them and discovered that they are but they aren’t – the Diary of a Teenage Girl series is apparently four books each about several different girls (five for Caitlin) that are somehow, somewhat related (cousins, friends, students at school together) with a few interrelated topics: God, journalism, and, uh, being a teenage girl. Thus, what I really got was Kim’s first book and Maya’s second book but not two consecutive books. Alas.
I started reading Kim first and got about a third of the way through before I just couldn’t stomach it any longer. I don’t mind Christianity being a part of a story if it really helps the story, but I don’t go seeking out Christian fiction as a matter of course. I’ve found some gems this way [Note: Eric Wilson’s Jerusalem Undead series. Go. Read. It. Now.]. But for every book like the Mandie series, where the characters happen to be Christian, there’s a book like this that tries so hard to jam it down one’s throat that you can’t help but choke on it.
In Just Ask, Kim is dealing with several things – wanting to get a car, trying to be Christian when her heritage dictates otherwise (she’s Buddhist by heritage, adopted into a Christian family), etc. And when she gets a speeding ticket, her father makes her pay it off by doing an advice column in the paper he owns. (The advice column thing is apparently an ongoing thing in the series, since one of the other girls ends up doing a column of some sort, too.)
So the book didn’t start off horrible. It’s a diary format, so it’s first person, which drives me nuts, but how else would you write a diary? But the author used a remarkable amount of underlining in the book – moreso than in everything else I’ve read this year combined – and that drove me nuts. Then there’s her writing style.
Look, everyone. There’s a big difference in a character doing something because it’s the right thing, or learning a lesson because God wanted one thing, etc., and having couple characters try this passive-aggressive “I know she died, but God’s there, so it’s totally okay” thing. This reads more like a sermon than a YA book, and that’s really off-putting to me. Everything that was done or happened in this book suddenly because a relate-it-to-God sermon. They went and saw Passion of the Christ and it became a “it’s good for a church movie” conversation where she ends it feeling inadequate because she’s not Christian. I was raised Catholic and didn’t have that much of a religious discussion about the movie; ours was more along the way of “How could any person treat another person that way, theology aside?!”
So like I said, I got a third of the way through, and the combination of good-enough (as opposed to actually good) writing and beating one over the head with God God God (hitting one’s self with the book would have been less painful) was just too much and I gave up.
I put both of the books aside for a bit and then decided to try the other one to see if it was any better.
Maya is Kim’s cousin, and with her mother in jail for drugs and her father a famous pop star, so she moves in with Kim. And Maya is totally in to being green, so she gets her own column in Kim’s dad’s paper (how many columns does one paper hold!?). And she’s just found God (I always hate that phrase. Where was he? Behind the drapes?!), so now she’s trying to figure out how recycling and God fit together. Because, um, that’s a problem how?
So, four pages in, we already have to have the “are you a Christian” discussion. Now, let’s stop for a minute. I have never in my life walked up to somebody and asked them what their religion was unless we were in a forum specifically for that – like an academic religious discussion – but here we have strangers that are doing community service asking if they’re Christian. Maybe that’s the author’s experiences, but they’re sure not mine. And like I said, I’m so not a fan of God-in-your-face being the way you write a religious book.
I’d rather a character show me they’re a good person through doing than have them quote a book to me. I know Athiests that have read the bible, too.
Oh, and with Maya, we get that added bonus of her being psycho into being green. And everything I’ve just said about the “Christian message” we now get about the “green message” too. At the end of every chapter, we get a tip box about going greener. “If we could recycle one newspaper a week…” “…do you know the difference between greener cars?…” And that doesn’t count what you get in the text. “How can this city not have a recycling program!?”
So, yeah. I gave up on that book about 15 pages in, because it was clear that the style problems I found in the other book continued in this one.

On to the rating, I suppose.
I tried to offer these to a couple friends and despite being Christian and having attended religious high schools and colleges and whatever, even they refused them. I’m actually considering throwing them in the trash.

No, really.

So, uh, I guess I give them a 1/5. Just, don’t bother with these at all. Unless you need toilet paper or firewood.

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