Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stealing Parker by Miranda Kenneally

Summary (from Goodreads):
Red-hot author Miranda Kenneally hits one out of the park in this return to Catching Jordan's Hundred Oaks High.

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?
I’ve been having a bit of a reading binge…I really want to hit my goal for the year, and I kind of read two books in a row yesterday. Needless to say though, it is so easy to binge-read when you’re reading Miranda Kenneally.
It took me a while to read her stuff because despite a lot of positive reviews, the religious backdrop for all of the stories was a little off-putting for me. I’m not saying I won’t read books with religion in them (it would be impossible to do this); it’s just a lot of times these books make me feel uncomfortable, or preached to, and I really like to read for fun and for escape, and not for over-the-top lessons or high moral purposes, which can sometimes happen.
However, I love reading about powerful girl main characters who aren’t afraid to do things, like play football with guys or star in softball games. And I did enjoy Kenneally’s first book Catching Jordan. So, I put some stuff aside, and dived into Kenneally’s other work. And I am so glad I did. Her books aren’t about religion so much as they are about growing up and believing in yourself.
And this book didn’t actually paint the church, or at least Parker’s church in the best light. Parker’s mom left her family (to be with a woman), and Parker’s church pretty much treated Parker and her family terribly because of this. Parker’s best friends (from school and church) left her when she needed them most. Apparently the church Parker went to, taught everyone that it’s not good to spend time with sinners.
And poor Parker then has to deal with the rumors that she is just like her mom. And her sort of over-the-top rebellious response to this is to give up a sport she loves to play, loose weight, and make out with almost any boy that wants to. She’d rather be known as a slut, then a lesbian.
And while it took me a while to like Parker because she seemed to agree with her church about her mother –she refused to speak with her at all after she left– I grew to love her because she is so capable of learning and loving despite all the pain she’s been through.
And of course, I eventually learn that she’s not really mad at her mother for being gay, but she’s mad at her for leaving. And while I didn’t agree with any of Parker’s coping mechanisms, particularly the one that involved hooking up with a teacher (!), it still all rang as true for me. I could see a teen girl resorting to this. And Parker is so genuinely a good person. The more I read, the more I kept hoping for her to realize things and get healthier.
Despite her evil church, she doesn’t loose faith. She just finds another church –one that accepts people’s differences instead of punishing people for them. And despite how mean her old friends are to her, she never really does anything mean back to them. Part of her feels she deserves what she’s getting because it’s like how can so many people (so many people who she’s spent her whole life with) all be wrong, and her (just one person) be right? And while you see Parker at these all time lows, you also see her slowly climb back to herself. She gets to know a friend of her best friend better. And she starts to see that she can be herself again.
This book dealt with some serious stuff. There’s a lot about homosexuality (with her mom and a friend), there’s inappropriate relationships, there’s faith and there’s doubt, there’s bullying, and there’s love. And throughout it all, I never felt preached to. I never felt like the book was telling me to believe a certain way. Instead, it really seemed as though the author was saying: everyone believes differently and that is okay. It was more about believing in yourself. And I loved this.
I loved watching Parker grow as a person. I loved her relationship to baseball and her relationship with her friends. I loved how she was there for her friend who came out of the closet, even though she was going through a rough patch with her mom’s situation. I loved her growing relationship with Will. This was just such a fun feel-good book that covered a lot of issues, and I loved every second of it. It gets a 10/10 from me.

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