My family wasn't very religious growing up.
When I was in elementary school, my best friend, Laurie, took me to her church (Presbyterian) where I joined the hand bell choir and had fun in Sunday School. I liked church, even though I specifically recall sitting there in the pew, trying to understand the sermon, and most of the time, not really getting it. But I tried! Christmas time was my favorite time to go to church, with all of the pretty decorations, including the gigantic Christmas tree they cut down and decorated every year.
But then we moved away, and there was no more church for me for a long time. As I got older, I had questions. Questions like - I had never been baptized, so if I died, would I go to hell? Did God still love me if I didn't go to church? How could I get to know God and have a personal relationship with Him?
Even now, as an adult, years away from my teen years, I still have questions about God and the world and everything in between. We're now members of a church and have been for many years, but going to church doesn't mean the questions stop. And I actually think that's a very good thing.
I really enjoy reading books where a teen is struggling with faith or questioning his/her faith. There aren't a lot out there, though. I think it can be challenging because it has to be done in a way that isn't preachy and it really can't be the entire focus of the book.
Tomorrow we'll be spotlighting Denise Jaden's LOSING FAITH, and if you're like me, and enjoy books with a religious element, you'll definitely want to check it out. Brie, the main character, is sort of the black sheep of her religious family. When her sister dies in what appears to be a suicide, Brie can't believe it, and dives into a a mystery that will keep you reading long after you should turn off the light.
Two other books I enjoyed with religious elements: ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr and THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas.
The main character in ONCE WAS LOST, Sam, is the daughter of a pastor. Her faith should be rock-solid. But certain things happening around her, including the kidnapping of a local girl, are making her doubt her faith. Kirkus (in a starred review, one of four!) called this a "riveting" read, and I have to agree.
In THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD, Antonia, wants to become the first living saint in the history of the Catholic church. Her first request after her father died was to become the Patron Saint of Daddy's Heart. Family, friends, and first loves fill the pages in this warm and wonderful book. Publisher's Weekly gave it a starred review (another book with four starred reviews) and called Freitas' debut novel, "fresh and funny."
Hot Topic Questions: Would you like to see more YA novels exploring faith and religion? Any other books you can think of and recommend that do a good job exploring without hitting the reader over the head? As a teen, is/was religion important to you?