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Monday, July 16, 2012

the Right and the Real, written by Joelle Anthony. G.P. Putnam's Sons, Penguin. 2012. $19.00 ages 14 and up

"One minute, I was calmly strategizing, thinking about what a great story my teen hardships would be on late-night television someday, and the next, like a pot of water coming to a slow boil, starting right down in my gut, this huge surge of fear and pain pushed its way through my chest, slamming against my heart and into my throat. In a split second, I went from a girl with a plan to a gasping and sobbing mess."

Here is another of those young adult novels that, once begun, was very hard to put down. When Jamie meets Josh at school and falls hard for him, she begins attending his church, and encourages her father to do the same. The Right and the Real has a large membership and promises spiritual healing for those in need of it.  Jamie's father is looking for that, and he is soon swept up in all of its promises. Jamie is not so sure.

Jamie is living with her father because of her mother's substance abuse and a recent move to find a new life for herself. Her father is a recovering alcoholic whose own dying father set up a trust that allows the two to live comfortably. Jamie has dreams to moving to New York with her best friend to find work acting, when school finishes. It is her passion and she has applied to a drama school there.

At church, her father meets Mira. Jamie is happy for her father; but she has reservations about the control the church seems to be taking of their lives. When her father decides to marry Mira, Jamie acts as bridesmaid and is required to sign a pledge to follow the strict rules set by The Preacher and to live within the church community. She can't do it! She runs.

Subsequently, her life falls apart. Her father will not see her, or have any contact with her. Jamie is left on her own, with her small savings account, her car and her 'things' which she finds piled outside her father's house when she returns home from school, having decided that she will sign the pledge and have her life return to some form of normal. It's too late.

The rest of the story powers forward with Jamie learning much about life and living. She doesn't want to tell her friends about what has happened for fear they will tell their parents. If they do, she is sure that she will be sent to live with her mother, or put in the foster care system. She is months shy of her eighteenth birthday when she can legally live on her own. She finds a less-than-lovely motel that will rent her a room week to week. Terrified of these living conditions, and trying to keep herself safe, she meets LaVon. He is a caring ex-con who lives in the room next to hers, and offers friendship and protection when she needs it. He also helps her learn to cook, clean, trust, and ultimately believe in herself.

She struggles with so much pain...of betrayal and rejection, of keeping her life together as she feels it falling apart around her, of the secretive nature of her relationship with Josh now that she has been outcast from his church. She does not give up on her father, or herself. She bravely forges ahead, showing determination and a willingness to do what needs to be done to pursue her dreams and free her father.

Her first person voice takes the reader right to the heart of her struggle. She is a great character, worthy of our admiration and attention. The final tense scenes give hope that Jamie and her father may again find love and a peaceful, happy life.

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