2019 Box Office Revolution Book Awards

Every year, many Christian books are released, and writers of the same show off their creative talents. Across the many genres, these novels are judged based on the presence or absence of plot continuity and exceptional storytelling skills, above average character development, and whether or not a novel correctly addresses an issue or issues that relate to current American Christian culture. These novels are separated into roughly three groups of authors and their respective works of art: the exceptional, the potentially great, and those chosen by the votes of our readers. Likewise, winning titles are listed according to their genre. At Box Office Revolution, we believe it is our prerogative to annually recognize the entertainment creators who have the ability to bring revolution to Christian entertainment.

Staff Choice Winning Books of 2019

Thriller of the Year: The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker and The Line Between by Tosca Lee are tied for first place.

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Fantasy of the Year: Flight of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse (#2 in the Ravenwood Saga)

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Biblical Fiction of the Year: The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr

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Historical/Coming of Age of the Year: All Manner of Things by Susie Finkbeiner

Suspense of the Year: The Curse of Misty Wayfair by Jaime Jo Wright

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Staff Choice Honorable Mentions of 2019

Drama: The Words Between Us by Erin Bartels

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Historical: The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner

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Romance: Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

Courting Mr. Emerson  -     By: Melody Carlson

Biopic/Romance: My Dearest Dietrich by Amanda Barratt

My Dearest Dietrich: A Novel of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Lost Love  -     By: Amanda Barratt

Reader’s Choice Book of the Year: The Line Between by Tosca Lee

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Staff Choice Authors of the Year: Rachelle Dekker, Tosca Lee, Morgan L. Busse, Patrick W. Carr, Susie Finkbeiner, and Jaime Jo Wright.

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Rachelle Dekker
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Tosca Lee

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Morgan L. Busse
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Patrick W. Carr
Susie Finkbeiner
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Jaime Jo Wright

Staff Choice Honorably Mentioned Authors of the Year: Erin Bartels, Susan Meissner, Melody Carlson, Amanda Barratt

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Erin Bartels
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Susan Meissner
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Melody Carlson
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Amanda Barratt

Congratulations to all the authors mentioned in this post on their wins and honorable mentions! Thank you all for being committed to producing high quality Christian entertainment and for glorifying God with the gifts He has given you!

Courting Mr. Emerson by Melody Carlson

Courting Mr. Emerson  -     By: Melody Carlson

Author’s Note: We were provided with a free copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Plot & Storyline Quality (2.5 points)

Melody Carlson’s latest novel, Courting Mr. Emerson, is a real treat. In a surprising turn of events, the novel has defied my expectations and may be her best novel to date. At the very least, this new book is equally as good as her acclaimed title, Finding Alice. George Emerson is set in his ways. He has a schedule that contains one or more agendas for each day that will be met, which has in turn led to a very successful teaching career. He is dedicated to his students and feels things more deeply than he would ever admit. He never colors outside the lines, has the morals of a saint, and is in perfect control….but he is alone. Faced with an early retirement and the resulting big life changes, George clings more tightly to the illusion of control. Will he succeed? Willow West loves life and people. She pursued her dreams at the expense of her past relationships and personal life, but finally found God and learned that He doesn’t expect us to have it all together. She loves God, art, and her grandson, and can’t stand for people to be lonely or set in their ways. When Willow meets George, she feels an unexplainable connection and sympathy for his lonely lifestyle. However, when her innate need to help others (frequently) crosses the line to pushiness, will her friendship with George be compromised? To find out more, read the book!;) I can honestly say that this is a book worth reading. The steady flow of eccentric and truly funny humor is neither overdone or underdone, making for a enjoyable read that flows quite well. The only errors to note here are a few moments of empty space and a fairly simple plot structure. However, other strengths include an atypical and honest view of today’s church, and a somewhat unpredictable ending. Therefore, Carlson earns an above average score in this section.

Character Development (4 points)

Carlson’s multi-dimensional characters are the strongest part of this novel. George and Willow are both well-developed because their past has influenced their present tendencies and beliefs. Additionally, Carlson demonstrates a keen understanding of how people with different personalities view the world and respond to their interactions with others. The characters drive the plot and break traditional character molds for a romantic comedy. This is because Carlson avoids the typical love triangle and replaces it with a few moments of real responses that people have to their interpretation of an event, such as anger or hurt. (spoiler) Additionally, her brief parody of the ‘other man/woman’ plot element is much appreciated because the said character has a history of many broken relationships and is therefore imperfect. For these and other reasons, Carlson earns a perfect score in character development.

Creativity & Originality (1 point)

This romantic comedy is filled with eccentric qualities that set it apart from your typical romance tale. Needless to say, it goes down as one of the most refreshing books I have had the privilege to read in some time. Carlson has stepped out in this novel and dared to be different – a fact that leads me to award her a full point in originality. As you may have guessed by now, we here at BOR believe that this would make a great Christian romantic comedy film reminiscent of original comedies such as Altar Egos and Heaven Bound. We believe that the makers of these films, or someone like
Rik Swartzwelder, could bring this book to the big screen and use the different ideas therein to present a movie that could influence church culture for the better. To conclude, great job Ms. Carlson! We look forward to reading more novels like this one!:-)

Wish List Rating: 7.5 out of 10 points

An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson

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Melody Carlson has written several Christmas novels over the years, and unfortunately, most have fallen into the typical feel-good category that popular demand insists upon. In short, I would not recommend most of her Christmas novels unless you want to read a book with a simple, romance-based plot and a happy ending. Unlike some of her other Christmas novels, An Irish Christmas attempts to create flawed, real characters that have realistic lifestyles, and succeeds in some ways. While I do not condone some aspects of the novel, such as Carlson’s continued lighthearted view of alcohol consumption, I am sure that many readers will find this novel interesting. An Irish Christmas deals with subjects such a biological fathers, secrets, lies with good intentions, Ireland, Irish customs, mothers, sons, healing, truth, and the relationship between parent and child. The opening chapters of the novel introduce the reader to a middle-aged woman named Colleen and her adult son Jamie. Twenty years after World War two, Colleen is still holding onto secrets that have been kept hidden for far too long. Her husband’s recent death has taken a toll on the stability of her emotions. Colleen now finds herself lonely and uncertain as to what the future holds. Her relationship with her son Jamie has been a bit strained as of late, and she wonders if he is really happy. Jamie is an artistic young man who has been pursuing his musical career under the alias of attending college. For two years he has kept up appearances, but now things are going awry, and he feels that the only way to find meaning in his life is to join the military. When he announces this plan to his mother, she decides to take Jamie to Ireland for the Christmas season, with the hopes of dissuading him from leaving, and of rebuilding their relationship. While they are they Jamie and his mother will finally discover one another’s secrets. Will the truth tear them apart or draw them together again? To answer this question, read the book!;) While the novel is fine at face value, I feel that Carlson could have included more aspects of the Christian faith in the story. I felt like I was reading an inspirational novel, rather than one in the Christian genre. For this reason, and others like it,  I feel that, as a film, this novel would likely be little better than another installment in Hallmark’s bottomless bin of Christmas movies. Therefore, it would take a talented filmmaker indeed to discover the potential in this novel, and to improve upon the plot to create a worthwhile Christian film. However, I do believe that it is possible, after all, look what the creators of the Voyage of the Dawn Treader film did with a slow-paced book!

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Maya Stark

The final Diary of a Teenage Girl series by Melody Carlson is about Kim Peterson’s cousin, Maya Stark. I personally found that the Maya Stark series is the most commonplace of the entire series. When compared to the Caitlin O’Connor series and the Kim Peterson series, this one comes up somewhat short. I wonder if Carlson wrote this series because she wanted to create an extension of the Kim Peterson character. I think that these three books would have been better if Maya was a independent character, instead of being tied to old plot-lines, as the teen girl idea can become repetitive. However, this final series is still a good read that I would recommend to most teen readers. The Maya Stark series deals with subjects such as parental drug addiction, loneliness, fear, changes, preferences, life challenges, independence, betrayal, surrender, and how God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. The first novel, aptly titled A Not so Simple Life, introduces the reader to the tumultuous life of a teen girl named Maya Stark. Maya Stark has grown up with a has-been Hollywood star for a mother, who also happens to be a drug addict; not to mention an absent father figure who is always touring and doing concerts. Because of her mother’s unreliability and unstable finances, and her father’s noncommittal role in her life, Maya has learned to make it on her own. Maya’s mother has neglected her schooling, so Maya has been home-schooling on her own. Maya experiences a major life change when her mother is arrested for drug possession, among other charges. She hides in her home for a time, then gives up and decides to go live with her cousin, Kim Peterson, and Kim’s dad, who is also Maya’s uncle. At first she finds it hard to adjust to the Peterson’s lives, as they have many different practices from her own. For one thing, they’re Christians, and for another thing, they do not seem to care about the environment, which is something that is important to Maya. Yet another area of conflict is that Maya is set on being a vegan, and the Peterson’s are the exact opposite of this lifestyle. She finds solace in exploring different career options, even dabbling in modeling for a time. However, she discovers that none of these activities fill the void inside, and begins to be more open to the faith of her relatives. In the remainder of the series, Maya becomes a Christian, makes new friends, comes to an understanding with her father, and strays farther away from her mother after she secretly empties their shared bank account. As relationships progress and life moves forward, will Maya remember what matters most in life? Will she cling to Jesus through all of life’s twists and turns? To answer these questions, read the books!;) This series may or may not be a good addition to the miniseries concept I have mentioned in previous posts. I wonder if the miniseries would even be affected if this series was edited out. I suppose that the writer could at least include this character in scenes from the other series. Nevertheless, we continue to wait for the day when filmmakers will recognize the potential found in select Christian novels.

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Kim Peterson

In this part of Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series, she introduces the reader to a new character, a teenage girl named Kim Peterson. This part of the series deals with subjects such as religion, Christianity, death, grief, healing, romantic relationships, conflicting interests, cancer, teen pregnancy, friendships, faith, family tension, cousins, and more. The first novel introduces the reader to Kim Peterson; Kim is a teenage girl of Korean descent who is searching for meaning in her life. Kim’s parents adopted her as a baby, and she has never known her biological family. Kim does not want to be tied down to Christianity, as she believes that it is too good to be true, so she begins to look into the religious practices of her ancestors. Kim experiments with Buddhism, and anything else that gives her temporary meaning. Her father has blackmailed her into writing an advice column for teens in the local newspaper, and she feels a heavy responsibility in truthfully answering the questions that readers submit. When a classmate is killed at school, Kim is flooded with questions about life and death, ones that she cannot answer. This leads Kim to search out the truth; she discovers the Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Kim becomes a Christian and tries to live her life in a way that would honor God. In the second novel, Kim’s newfound faith is put to the test when her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Kim becomes romantically involved with a boy named Matthew, and he pressures her to give him her innocence. Kim is confused and hurting, and feels that the mountain in front of her is too big to climb. The third novel continues this thought, however, it brings hope, as Kim slowly begins to recover from her mother’s death. However, her dad loses his job and her best friend gives in to her boyfriend’s demands, becoming pregnant as a result. Kim feels that her world is crumbling, and feels powerless to stop it from happening. Eventually she accepts the facts and tries her best to cope. The final novel introduces new plot lines and finishes previous ones, it is, in my opinion, the best book of the series. This part of the Diary of a Teenage Girl series would make a great part three in a Christian miniseries. However, the creator would have to employ some editing, as some of the novels have overly long scenes. The casting would also have to be diverse. This is a concept that not many filmmakers seem to grasp.

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Chloe Miller

From what I understand, the second character in Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl series is Chloe Miller. This part of the series outlines an important part of Chloe’s life, during which she will make many decisions that affect her future. The series deals with subjects such as identity, a person’s worldview, the need for stability, adolescent struggles, bullying, loneliness, artistic interests, the discovery of true worship, and more. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, Chloe Miller. Chloe is the younger sister of Josh Miller (who ends up marrying Caitlin O’Connor, another main character in this series). Chloe is full of questions, including ones about life, identity, family, and relationships. However, the question that trumps all of these is her journey to discover if God really exists. Chloe is a deeply artistic soul who loves to express herself in tangible ways. She enjoys being different, and is the definition of a nonconformist. She tries to do everything opposite of the preppy, “perfect” girls in her high school. However, she will never admit that the bullying of those who love to mock her  unique ways…..gets to her. Through twists and turns, spurred on by the universal need to be loved unconditionally and to have a purpose; Chloe eventually becomes a Christian. And, as is typical for her; decides to go all out in proving her love for her Savior. Chloe channels her passion for the arts into forming an all girl band, one that will break Christian stereotypes and seek to bring about unity among believers. Throughout the remainder of the series Chloe will learn that fame and fortune comes at a cost, and that even the best relationships take work. She will learn that in order to correctly balance family, school, music, friends, and romantic relationships, she must be in tune with the Voice of Truth; Jesus Christ. This series is a great way for both older and younger teen girls to learn valuable lessons about life and love. Throughout the series Carlson includes many real life circumstances; without sugarcoating the consequences. Carlson is an inspiration to those seeking to write Christian fiction for teens, and should be applauded for her effort to make a difference in the lives of Christian youth. The Chloe Miller series would make an excellent part two in a Christian miniseries based on Carlson’s collection of Diary of a Teenage Girl novels. However, the writer/director/producer would have to be careful to not model it too closely after a modern day TV show.

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Caitlin O’Connor

Melody Carlson’s Diary of a Teenage Girl series is perhaps her most popular collection of books to date. This series was a big hit with teen readers and young adults, and continues to stand as an example to other writers of how to appeal to a younger age group. The series covers the lives of four different girls, Caitlin, Chloe, Kim, and Maya. This large series deals with subjects such as self-discovery, divorce, teen pregnancy, peer pressure, life struggles, death, tragedy, recovery, redemption, friendship, sisterhood, and more. Carlson manages to cover most of the issues that teens see every day, while at the same time portraying them in a realistic and poignant way. As a young teen I greatly enjoyed reading this series and learned some important life lessons from the characters’ fictional mistakes and bad life choices. I would recommend this series to any Christian teen girl who is trying to make her way in life and navigate the challenges areas of faith, love, and friendship. The first part of the series introduces the reader to a young teen girl named Caitlin O’Connor.

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Caitlin lives an empty life, searching for things that will make her happy, all the while unaware that the only being capable of filling the void inside is Jesus Christ. She struggles with a difficult home life, tumultuous relationships with friends, the desire to be loved, and the deep need for meaning and purpose. As Caitlin bridges the gap between girlhood and womanhood, she will find that Jesus is the answer for this difficult world. Throughout the series Caitlin becomes a Christian, struggles with many different life challenges, and learns many life lessons the hard way. She learns how to shine the light of Jesus’ love in some of the darkest places, and strives to remain pure of heart, mind, and body in a world full of temptation and distraction. This series, and the ones following, could make an interesting Christian miniseries, as the characters are well-developed and portrayed as imperfect people trying to follow Jesus and listen to his voice. In the right hands, this type of production could be revolutionary in the lives of teens and young adults.

Melody Carlson’s Mental Health Masterpiece: Finding Alice

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As previously mentioned on this blog, Melody Carlson is a superb author of teen and adult fiction. Many have been drawn to the gentle way that she weaves the Gospel story into her novels. She believes that Christians have just as many issues as the next person, and that, at times, some hurt others with their exclusivity. Carlson is a rare author who dares to admit that the church body has flaws. In her novel, Finding Alice, she shows how the church body can hurt a person or persons by not being willing to help them, by putting their convenience and traditionalism above someone else’s needs. For this reason, and others like it, Finding Alice is Carlson’s best novel. The plot and plot twists are performed flawlessly and hold the attention of the reader. Carlson’s brave undertaking of this difficult subject matter make this novel worth a read and definitely worth promoting. Not many people would be willing to write about this topic in a real-life context, nor would they make the effort to portray it in an accurate light.  Finding Alice deals with subjects such as mental illness, schizophrenia, family traits, life choices, the consequences that come along with these, the exclusivity of small churches, estranged family relationships. loneliness, fear, friendship, brotherly love, and the healing power of God’s love for us. The opening chapters introduce the reader to the main character, Alice Laxton. Alice is a senior in college, she is a brilliant student, confounding her professors with her knowledge and ability to learn new concepts. Alice has a normal life, or so she believes. However, little does she know that there is a dark secret from her estranged family’s past, one that they would all like to forget. You see, Alice’s grandmother had schizophrenia. Being an early case, no one knew how to treat her properly, so, they locked her away…..and she eventually died alone, lost in her own mind. Alice lives in a typical college housing facility, alone, and in total control of her life; she is independent and free. One day Alice meets a new friend, her name is Amelia. Amelia claims to be Alice’s guardian angel, and tells her that she is here to keep her safe from the outside world. Alice wonders how she got into the apartment, Amelia brushes this aside and begins teaching Alice all sorts of new things. Alice shouldn’t eat the food in her home, it’s not safe. She shouldn’t even drink the water, its probably poisonous. Alice listens to Amelia, and, slowly, she begins to fall into the hands of her own mind. Some time later, Alice’s mother discovers how far gone her daughter has become. She is shocked to discover Alice’s condition, and makes the decision to bring her home to nurse her back to health. Alice soon discovers, with the help of Amelia, that nowhere is safe, not even her own home. Her mother, goaded on by friends from her cultist church who believe Alice is possessed by an evil spirit, makes the decision to send Alice to an institution. For months Alice lurks in a drug-induced haze that she believes to be Wonderland, but somewhere in the back of her mind she knows she should escape this place of darkness. Eventually an opportunity arrives, and she is finally free from her prison of medication. Sadly, she realizes that she is now on the streets, alone and afraid…..and still in a prison in her mind. Alice makes new friends, real ones, that Amelia doesn’t like, and discovers that the streets are much more accommodating than Wonderland. Eventually she finds a sick, abandoned kitten and names him Cheshire. Her friends tell her of a woman named Faye who takes in sick cats from the streets, so she takes him there. Little does she know that Faye also takes in people in need, and loves them unconditionally, just like Jesus. Will Alice escape the prison in her mind? Will she find healing through God’s love? To answer these questions, read the book!;) Finding Alice would make an excellent Christian drama film, but in the wrong hands it could be disastrous. I believe the best course of action for Christian novels such as these would be to include the author in the film-making to ensure that a quality story-line would be upheld.

An Introduction to Melody Carlson

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Melody Carlson is a accomplished Christian author of nearly hundreds of novels, their genres ranging from fiction for adults, teen girls, and even children. She, much like Angela Hunt, is an author willing to take on challenging subjects and portray them in a poignant and meaningful way. Her somewhat raw look at life’s ups and downs is what drew readers of all ages to her addicting style. Many of her novels will forever hold life lessons for those trying to make it through the years of change and discovery. However, certain aspects in some of her novels keep her from being the best author of teen fiction, such as her view that it is okay to consume alcohol in certain situations. Unfortunately, Carlson’s motto seems to be that as long as you don’t get drunk, its okay to enjoy yourself on occasion. While everyone is free to make their own decisions, it is unacceptable for someone who claims to be a Christian author to be spreading this message. Therefore, if she would change this one aspect of her novels, I would recommend all of her novels to you, rather than a select group. Many of Carlson’s readers would argue that, at times, her gritty and eye-opening look at the modern world of high-school and relationships is needed and appreciated. I would have to agree with them in most cases, because it is rare to find an author that is willing to speak the plain truth when it comes to life choices, and the consequences that come with them. Some of Carlson’s best works include Finding Alice, The Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the Inn at Shining Waters series, Just Another Girl, and The 86 Bloomberg Place Series. All of these are excellent reads and most certainly worth your time, whether you are a teen or a young adult. In the near future I will be reviewing the works listed above, and hope that all you avid readers enjoy discovering the tales that lie within!