Saturday, March 29, 2014
Taken by Storm (Trilogy) by Angela Morrison
Recommendation: This is a good trilogy told in a unique way, but only for the well-informed reader who enjoys LDS fiction that deals with taboo topics
Caution: High heat level, (talk of crisis of faith and you get into a teenage boys brain... which is hmm a true teenage boys brain, so this book may not be for everyone, but overall it is clean, but may push the limits for some)
Taken by Storm had the potential to be quite a controversial trilogy. This book approached the subject of inter-faith dating and the "gray" lines that sometimes arise from dating a person not of your faith. This book is written in a very unique way, alternating chapters between Leesie's poem book and Michael's Dive log. It took me a few chapters to get used to it, but it didn't take away from the story line at all.
Leesie is a young Mormon teenager. She is the only member of the church in her small High School. Her family has very strict dating rules (like most LDS families): No necking, No petting, Not tongue, No fornification, No sex before marriage etc. and she is quite content and happy with this arrangement because she believes her faith and wants to live it. However, because of her rules, she is known as the "Ice Queen" at school and is bullied: name calling, butt pinching etc. Leesie's side of the story is told in her Poem book, in verse. I wasn't sure if I would like verse, and admittedly, I had a harder time connecting to Leesie's chapters then Michael's, but it was enjoyable overall.
And then there's Michael. I really liked Michael and I really hated Michael. He is there for Leesie and is a good guy, but he is a very typical non-mormon teenage boy. Let's just say he has hormones. Well, to be fair, so does Leesie, but because he has different standards than her in regards to intimacy than well, it's easier to dislike him especially in this first book. Michael has come to live with his Gram after his parents are killed during a dive trip. He is grieving, and alone and suffering.
So this book is about what happens as these two teens begin to form a bond. This was a difficult book for me to read, because I lived Leesie's life. In high school and some of college, I dated a non-member. We had many many many conversations about religion and my "limits". He was a good guy, a really good guy actually. Smart, kind, family-oriented, charitable... but we had very different standards. And because we had different standards, we encountered many differences of opinion. So as Leesie and Michael are trying to navigate their relationship through three books: Breaking up, getting back together, getting close to the line and backing away, missionary discussions, crisis of faith... It just felt like I was reliving my adolescent years again. For better of for worse. In the first book they have one conversation about "churchy" stuff and he calls her Brainwashed. That one really hurt. This section is from his POV and it is really easy to see why he thinks that, of course being a mormon and sharing Leesie's beliefs, it just brought back a few too many sad memories.
What I liked:
Morrison approached this subject in a fresh new way. She was brave and committed to telling a story of a couple trying to figure out who they are, what they believe and how or if they can/should/want to fit together. In fact, it was so honest, I know a few readers will be turned off by the subject matter (it isn't graphic and THE line is never crossed, but it is steamy). But I commend her for taking on a subject that many/most LDS authors might be too uncomfortable taking on. Actually, I better check my facts, I'm not totally sure she is LDS. Hmm.
The characters were spot on, the challenges they struggled with were so real it hurt and the characters were relatable and "hateable". Michael, was 100% perfectly written. He was a teenage boy and unrepentant for it. He challenged Leesie in some many ways: her faith, her boundaries, her thoughts, her future. At times, I wanted to scream at Leesie just to walk away. There's too much heartache waiting in a relationship like that, for both parties... and it's just not fair to either of you to continue on. But at the same time, I understood the feeling of loving someone so much that the thought of walking away without doing everything you can do to teach that person the gospel is just as heartbreaking.
What I didn't like: (*some spoilers below so read with caution)
This book has the potential of saying: "It's okay to date non-members if there are no members around" and the idea of "flirt to convert", which is such a dangerous and slippery slope, especially if this book has a HEA see my post here to read more about this. That being said, Morrison did a good job of conveying the real feelings the characters had for each other and the real difficulty in having a relationship with someone not of your faith, especially the physical side of it. This is a difficult subject to write and I think she was really brave to take it on. 99% of interfaith relationships, especially between teenagers are going to end. If you are the 1% then I am happy for you, but it's still difficult to write without saying you condone it. I guess what I mean is, if you commit to writing this type of story like Morrison did, there is going to be a lot of gray area that is very difficult to write both accurately and morally. I believe that somehow Morrison has managed to do it.
This was a well written trilogy. It took a few turns that I didn't see coming, which kept me on my toes. It was so real and so honest that I think it is a series worth reading, especially if you have a teenage daughter (or son) dating someone of another faith, because it can give an honest glimpse into the teenage mind. Another reason I would recommend this book is because it is LDS fiction that approaches subject matter that is taboo, without about being profane. In other words, it isn't a nice little all tied together with a pretty pink bow... Nope, It is real and gritty and because of that it can sometimes be painful and uncomfortable to read. But it will certainly make you feel something. For that reason alone, I think this book deserves to be read. (You really will have to read all three to get a HEA though, so be forewarned).