Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)
Erin Bartels’ second novel has a strong storyline and good characters that make for a pleasantly imperfect read that shows much potential for the future. Robin has lived an atypical life from the beginning. She spent part of her childhood as the daughter of a U.S. senator and his wife, and the rest of it surviving under different identities with different caregivers. When Robin’s mom and dad are arrested and put in jail indefinitely for murder and other charges, she is shipped off to her grandmother’s trailer in Michigan. It doesn’t take long for her to meet her new neighbor, Peter, who comes to visit his dead mother in the cemetery in her front yard. The two quickly become friends, but Robin holds him at arms’ length, covering her insecurities and lack of identity with sarcasm and resilience. When Robin’s grandmother dies suddenly, she can’t handle the fallout and strikes out on her own. As one circumstance leads to another, Robin will find herself unable to let go of the past, and scared to believe in a better future. Overall the storyline has good continuity, and the author’s attention to detail adds a lot to a basic plot structure. Additionally, the subtle, self-aware observations by the author of typical plot twists that she purposely avoided adds unique humor and displays a refreshing, transparent writing style. The main weakness that keeps this section from a perfect score is the somewhat rushed, Band-aid style ending. In spite of its flaws, this is a unique, enjoyable story that rounds out with an above average score.
Character Development (2.5 points)
Bartels’ character development is also above average. The dialogue between characters is exceptional because it is the core of the developing relationship between the protagonists. Likewise, Robin is the best character because her childhood trauma has lasting effects on her life and shapes who she is as an adult. Additionally, Bartels’ use of first person for Robin adds depth and should be the rule for novels in this genre. (spoiler) In comparison, the weakest part of Robin’s character is the way her long-held trauma seems to be fixed by renewing an old relationship. On a positive note, Peter is a very unique male lead that avoids the usual pitfalls and demonstrates both intelligence and relatability – both hard to find qualities in Christian fiction’s male protagonists. Furthermore, Dawt Pi and Sarah are exceptional minor characters who actually have a real role in the story…and stories of their own! Therefore, Bartels rounds out with an above average score here as well.
Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)
Finally, Bartels earns a full point in creativity for her unique storyline and a half an x-factor point in originality for her great characters and dialogue sequences. This being said, we feel that her novel would make an excellent Christian drama film that brought to light everyday trauma(s) that people deal with throughout life and the affect this has on their decisions and relationships. The screenwriter would need to alter very little, as the novel is already written like a screenplay. The main thing to focus on here would be an excellent cast. We hope that a budding or established Christian filmmaker will recognize the great potential this novel has to become a film.
Wish List Rating: 7 out of 10 points