genre: young adult
What is Saving Maddie?
It's a book about faith. About finding your own faith. About the reasons why make our choices. About forgiveness and trying to look beyond others choice's into who they really are.
Joshua knows who he is. He's the preachers son. He's the leader of his church youth group. He's proud that he doesn't drink and not ashamed to be a virgin. Not really.
But when Maddie, his best friend from childhood moves back, it's clear that she's no longer the preacher's daughter that he knew. The way she dresses and behaves is enough to show Joshua (and everyone else in town) that something happened to Maddie to turn her away from church life.
Joshua is asked to save her.
And in the process, of course, he falls for Maddie, who is a mix of the girl he knew and someone else completely. She's not easy to save, though, and she makes him work hard to figure out what he really believes on his own terms.
The book feels real: the church community, the interactions between Joshua and his parents, Joshua's emotional upheaval about Maddie - I believed all that. As much as I didn't like all the language and fooling around amongst the high school crowd, I believed that too. I liked Joshua as a character because as one of those "good kids" myself, I know the desires that always lurk beneath the surface. I like that sleeping around and getting drunk isn't glossed over or portrayed as a great idea, and although I don't love reading about teenagers doing that stuff, I obviously know that they do and that all kids will have to make choices about those issues at some point.
I think what Johnson does with his book that interests me is that he doesn't paint any of his characters as completely black or white - no one is all bad-guy or good-guy. Despite all of Maddie's choices, you can tell that some level of faith is still there. We all SHOULD look at the choices we make and be sure that we're doing what's "moral" because of our own relationship with God, not just because our parents or the Bible tell us so.
Like my friend Melissa said in her review, the book ends with hope, which is a great way to end anything.