11 November 2011

Review 50: Grace by Morris Gleitzman

“In the beginning there was me and Mum and Dad and the twins. And good luck was upon us and things were great and we were bountiful. But it came to pass that I started doing sins. And lo, that’s when all our problems began…”

Story: Thought provoking and modern which provides teenage readers with plenty of food for thought.
Protagonist: Incredibly charming.

Writing: Gleitzman is a master at created easy to read stories with real depth.

Story: Grace and her family are members of a strict Christian cult. She has to keep her hair long and then pinned up in a bun and she is strictly forbidden from speaking to or touching the unsaved. She goes to a school that is run and populated entirely by members of the cult. Despite this, her parents have always encouraged her to ask questions and to cultivate a genuine relationship with God which leads to problems when her reluctance to accept things that don’t make sense cause trouble at school. Things get worse when her Dad is expelled from the cult for asking too many questions and Grace and her family are told to think of him as dead. Grace is forced to really question what her faith in God means and to put aside things she has been brought up with in order to save her family.

Characters: Grace is such a winning heroine, it would be difficult not to root for her despite her naivety. As a Christian who likes to ask questions myself, I related to her in that respect and was pleased that Gleitzman chose to show a Christan who does not just blindly accept what they are told. Grace’s commitment to her family is unswerving and her resourcefulness and bravery are inspiring.

Grace’s parents are also well written; her Dad who stands up for what he thinks and her Mum who wants to but is struggling to leave behind the church and family that she grew up with. I enjoyed reading the different ways that the family tried to deal with coming to terms with the fact that the cult was not the healthy and supportive environment they had once hoped it to be. The villains are enough to stir up anger in most readers because we all know somebody who refuses to see anything other than what they believe. Their ignorance is all too familiar sadly.

Writing: As a Christian, I must admit I was a little nervous about reading this. However I was pleasantly surprised by Gleitzmans sensitive approach; whilst many of the cult members are rightfully condemned for their cruel and illogical actions, Grace’s faith and that of her family is not portrayed as inherently wrong as faith seems to be so often these days and in fact Grace’s relationship with God is what encourages her to keep trying to find her father after he is cast out of the church. She allows herself to attempt the impossible. 

Gleitzman is a incredibly talented children’s writer. The story zips along and only took me about  45 minutes to read but it is not weak because of this. Superbly put together, it is moving and dramatic with no dead moments. It will engage a broad range of ages with its compelling story and appealing heroine.

Cover Art and Title: The title is obviously the name of our heroine but also touches on the key Christian theme of grace; the idea that God saves us through grace and not through our own actions; does Grace succeed through her own efforts, Gods guidance or the fact that through her faith in God she believes that everything is possible?

I didn’t, however, like the cover as the lion is confusing until the end of the story and it feels a little bit like a selection of ClipArt. I’m not personally a fan of using real people on the covers of books as it defines how you imagine them which is problematic if they don’t fit what you imagine. It also so obviously is a model; you know it is someone posing for the photo. I also thought the child model looked a little young for Grace.

Try it if you liked: The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

Final thoughts: A charming yet deep book with a wonderful main character, exciting story and plenty to think about.

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