Nine by Rachelle Dekker

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

UPDATE: After a consultation with our writing team, it was determined that the previous review was too harsh and overlooked some of the superior qualities of this novel. Thus, two points have been added to the overall rating.😃

Plot & Storyline Quality (3 points)

Rachelle Dekker’s latest thriller, Nine, is a well-crafted and engaging novel that gets off to a rocky start. Zoe is living an average life working as a waitress and living in a hotel room. She has finally gotten a handle on managing the dark forests of her childhood memories, and is generally content to drift through each day. One rainy day, a terrified red-headed girl with an innocent expression bursts into the diner. She says her name is Lucy and claims she can’t remember anything. Zoe is drawn to Lucy’s vulnerability and decides to help her. Little does Zoe know that the price tag for this decision could be her life. Tom Seeley is a hardened FBI agent who threw himself into his work after losing his wife. Seeley found himself deeply involved in The Grantham Project, a top-secret government operation – based out of a campus named Xerox – whose goal is to genetically engineer biological weapons to defend the U.S. on special assignments. When the powers that be begin to do things that go against the few morals Seeley has left, he finds himself torn between obeying orders and exposing criminal activity. Zoe, Lucy, and Seeley find themselves thrown together in an on-again-off-again trio who are each forced to decide between who they are and who they have been trained to be. The strongest point of the plot and storyline is the theme I just mentioned. Deciding to be who God made you to be, no matter the cost, is a vitally important message in today’s world. Dekker beautifully weaves this theme throughout her novel and makes it the defining question amid the madness. This gives her story both depth and a purpose. Another strong point in the plot and storyline are the extremely well-crafted psychological elements. These are mainly showcased in Lucy’s deep and illustrative flashbacks that unfold throughout the middle of the novel. In comparison, this area of Nine also contains weaknesses. There are a few typical thriller elements, like a crazy lady living in a bunker, and the ending of the story is somewhat choppy. On the whole, this area of the novel rounds out with an above average score that could have been perfect if the errors listed above did not exist.

Character Development (4 points)

In comparison, the strongest aspect of the overall novel is Dekker’s character development. Lucy is a very well-crafted character with a fully developed set of emotional, behavioral, social, and spiritual characteristics. Her choices are relatable and, as previously mentioned, the flashbacks Dekker uses with her character add a lot of depth. Zoe is a believable main character who changes in realistic ways as time goes forward. Seeley is a mixed bag. His identity towards the beginning is unclear, but as it unfolds he becomes a strong character. Moreover, the back and forth shift between third and first person in the novel’s dialogue is very creative and illustrates the book’s key themes very well. Additionally, Olivia and other minor characters have clear roles in the story and are well-developed. The antagonist is actually quite good and avoids the typical thriller villian pitfalls. On the whole, a job well done, which earns Dekker a perfect score in this area.

Creativity & Originality (2 points)

Finally, Dekker receives a full point in creativity for her excellent dialogue, and a full x-factor point in originality for her superbly crafted psychological elements – i.e. flashbacks, etc. This being so, we highly recommend that the content in this novel be made into a Christian TV series. By doing this, the screenwriter would have room to do an in-depth exploration of Seeley and Zoe’s pasts, and therefore make their characters as strong as Lucy’s. They would need to tone down the violent torture sequences in the latter half of the story and edit out some of the characters’ brushes with death, but it can be done. To sum up, this novel is a great read for mature audiences and would make a great Christian series in the right hands.

Wish List Rating: 9 out of 10 points

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!

When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker

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Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Rachelle Dekker’s first standalone novel is a bittersweet adventure with brilliant underlying themes that hides life lessons in unlikely places. While the story discusses some very gritty topics, it does so with taste and class. Alicen is prosperous by the world’s standards, but spiritually, she is suffering. On the outside, she is a wealthy socialite who doesn’t have a care int he world, but on the inside, she is very unhappy. Alicen married a man she does not love, had a daughter with him she doesn’t have time for, and lives constantly under the fear of what her mother thinks. When her young daughter Jane dies in a sudden drowning accident when Alicen is not watching her, Alicen goes over the edge and tries to take her own life. When this doesn’t work, her best friend from childhood invites her to come stay in their hometown and consider checking herself into a mental health program. Alicen refuses at first, but when she begins seeing Jane and other children that no one else can see, having severe emotional breakdowns, and becoming so lost in her own mind that she loses track of her whereabouts, she reluctantly agrees out of fear. (spoiler) Unfortunately, the mental facility is not entirely reputable, and the path to healing is not as simple as Alicen may think. She will find that she must face her deepest fears and darkest moments to experience the healing light of God’s love. To find out what happens to Alicen, read the book!:) On the whole this storyline is very well constructed – from the intricate plot details to the excellent flashbacks Alicen experiences, Dekker spares no expense when it comes to quality over quantity. Her extremely realistic portrayal of strained and or unhealthy relationships across generations adds depth and relatability to the story, and the time she spent on giving each character a unique personality makes the novel very meaningful. I could continue to praise the novel’s strengths, but it would be best for you to read it yourself. In comparison, the weaknesses here are very minor. First, Victoria (the antagonist) is somewhat unrelatable until her backstory is explained, so Dekker probably needed to give us a few more hints about her past earlier on in the novel. Lastly, some of the fantastical elements are hard to believe, (spoiler) but thankfully these are balanced out by the ending, which depicts Alicen as not being able to enter an alternate reality after being healed. In summary, this is an excellent Christian thriller that I would recommend to a non-Christian – and that’s saying a lot.

Character Development (3.5 points)

In contrast, Alicen is a nearly perfect protagonist because she has realistic perceptions of herself, others, and the world, and her past experiences are inseparably intertwined with her present. Additionally, it is highly realistic that Alicen must face her past in order to move on with her life. Louise is an excellent minor character who has a clear role in the story that goes beyond being simply a best friend to Alicen. It is clearly established that she is someone God uses to help Alicen through her life storm. Furthermore, Alicen’s grandmother is a excellent minor character. Even though she is only in the flashbacks, her personality and role in the story are clearly defined as important by the author. In comparison, although the antagonist is not perfect, her character is rounded out with an unfortunately realistic backstory. It is my opinion that there could have been a greater emphasis on Victoria than her uncle, for her character has a rather hasty development and conclusion. In spite of this, character development is Dekker’s strongest suit. Therefore, she earns just shy of a perfect score in this section as well.

Creativity & Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, Dekker earns a full point in originality for writing an excellent psychological thriller that stands apart from it’s genre and communicates a unique Christian message. Moreover, she earns a half an x-factor point for her excellent characters and movie-worthy storyline. As such, we here at BOR think that this novel would make an excellent Christian series as it is. Some of the gritty factors, like Victoria’s past, would need to be subtle on screen, but it should be included in the film. Additionally, the screenwriter would need to be experienced with creating excellent flashback scenes, as this is vital to the plot continuity and depth. This would be a great project for a filmmaker who has made a few things before and is looking for something that will get them on the map.

Wish List Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points

The Girl Behind the Red Rope by Rachelle and Ted Dekker

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

Plot & Storyline Quality (3.5 points)

Rachelle and Ted Dekker’s latest novel is a very creative take on a simple truth that many Christians never live out. The detailed allegory-like storyline, the relatable characters, and the extreme creativity culminate in an enjoyable, unpredictable read that illustrates key spiritual truths. Grace, her mother, and brother Jamie live in Haven Valley, a place whose borders are closed in by a red rope. The residents of Haven Valley live under the protection of a mysterious being who claims to protect them from the Fury – frightening beings who are always looking for someone to attack – in exchange for unconditional obedience. Among other things, there are strict rules for how men and women can dress, look, behave, and interact with others – and above all there can be no lies or secret sin. Jamie has always questioned the validity of the community’s core beliefs, and one day he acts on this impulse by convincing Grace to journey with him beyond the red rope. What the two see and experience beyond Haven Valley’s borders send them hurrying back to safety and leave them with more questions than before. When Grace returns from her brief venture into the unknown she brings back a friend no one else can see who claims to be a source of wisdom and protection. Against this friend’s advice, Grace keeps breaking rules in her search for truth. When her decisions lead to consequences that she never desired, Grace will have to decide what she believes and who can be trusted. To find out what happens to Grace, Jamie, (and everyone else I didn’t mention ’cause spoilers), read the book!:) On the whole, the plot and storyline in this novel demonstrate excellent continuity and a level of depth not usually seen in this genre. The dialogue between characters contains many thought-provoking dilemmas that we are all faced with at some point in our lives. (spoiler) Additionally, the underlying contrast of legalism as death and grace as life and freedom beyond our wildest imagination gives the plot meaning and will be attractive to non-Christians. On a side note, this is a rare Christian novel that I would recommend to a unbeliever, especially one who was turned off to Christianity by a legalistic church or person. In contrast, there are two errors that keep this novel from a perfect score. First, there are a few too many sensational villian sequences between Rose and said being. Lastly, it is my opinion that Ben’s story was somewhat glossed over compared to the other characters’ stories. In spite of this, the well-placed flashbacks, intelligent characters, and creative undertones round this section out to just short of a perfect score.

Character Development (3.5 points)

In comparison, this novel is a great example of what happens when two good authors collaborate on characters. First, Grace is a nearly perfect protagonist who demonstrates (rarely seen) refreshing intelligence, realistic emotional responses, and relatable thought processes. Second, Jamie is a great secondary character who adds much to the plot because his story takes a realistic turn. Rose is a unique antagonist who is neither a strawman nor a typical villian. This being said, her backstory, current responses to past familial tension and abuse, and dependence on something other than God is a great illustration of someone who feels like they have to earn their salvation. Additionally, the minor characters are above average and have a clear role in the story. Furthermore, the representations of Jesus, his sacrifice on the cross, and live-giving resurrection are well-placed and make the story all that it is. In contrast, the errors here are minor and could be fixed if the novel was adapted to be a screenplay. As previously mentioned, Ben’s story needs more depth and a bigger place in the story because of how his role ends. Finally, some of the characters’ stories are wrapped up rather quickly; however, because the pros outweigh the cons here, the Dekkers earn an above average score in this section.

Creativity and Originality (1.5 points)

Finally, the Dekkers earn a full point in creativity for their great storyline and a half an x-factor point for their original, deep dialogue sequences and for their unique characters. This novel turns over a new leaf for it’s genre by proving that meaning, depth, and spiritual encouragement is possible in a thriller. Because of this, we here at BOR think this book would make a great Christian series. The book would need very little alteration to be converted to screenplay form, and most of the dialogue is good as is. As always, it is our continual hope that someone will recognize exceptional novels such as these and adapt them for the big screen.

Wish List Rating: 8.5 out of 10 points