Book Review: Counted Worthy

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Counted Worthy by Leah E. Good

My Rating: 4.5 stars

Age Suggestion: 12+

About the Book

Heather Stone lives in fear of repeating the past, yet she continues doing the one thing that could trigger another disaster. When the police trace an illegal Bible to her house, Heather’s world begins to crumble.

Her father’s life hangs in the balance. No one with the power to help knows or cares. If she tries to save him, she could lead her friends to their deaths. If she does nothing, her father’s fate is certain. Can she evade a hostile police force and win public sympathy before it’s too late? (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts

This book is scary to read; it’s dystopian, yet it doesn’t feel like much of a stretch from where our society is right now. A government intent on hunting down Christians, Bible-smuggling, and a society built on fear and lies are what make up the backdrop of this book, and it is a terrifying backdrop.

But that is what makes the book even more inspiring. Because it follows a girl who, even in the midst of all of this fear, is willing to stand up for what is right and do what it takes to get her father out of jail, and all of the people who stand with her.

The plot is exciting and fast-paced. It doesn’t offer trite answers or simple solutions, but shows the struggle of being a Christian in a hostile world honestly and clearly, with a good dose of action and banter mixed in which makes it a quick, engaging read. Heather’s character development is phenomenal. I can’t say too much about it without giving away the ending, but it ties so beautifully into the theme and is so well-done. And she’s surrounded by a cast of supporting characters who all have unique situations, strengths, and personalities. Especially Bryce. I love the simple care and chastity of their relationship, although I reallly hope it develops into a romantic one in the future 😉

The world-building is good, although the plot is very limited to one area, so I didn’t get much of a sense of the surrounding world. I do feel like that might have been purposeful, and I’m hoping to get more details about the history and the government in all of that in future books.

The writing really surprised me with how good it was! I went in knowing that this was a self-published book, and as such, expecting the writing to be the weak link, as I’ve found is the case so often with self-published books. But not this one! The writing is short and to-the-point, but somehow still manages to pack in tons of detail. Overall, in both writing and design, Counted Worthy didn’t feel self-published, and I could tell that Good knows her stuff.

And ultimately, the best thing about this book is the Christian themes. This might be the first Christian fiction book I’ve ever read that portrayed Christianity with high stakes, deep emotion, and no cheesiness. The Bible-quoting felt seamless and powerful, the faith wasn’t instant or easy. This book showed how hard Christianity can be, and how worth it. It showed how faith makes a person brave even when they’re scared. And it was powerful. Christianity in fiction is very hard to get right, and this book gets it right for sure. 

(Content: No language. Bryce and Heather have a boyfriend-girlfriend act they use to attract less attention, but there’s very little focus on it and their relationship is pretty much totally platonic. Some slightly intense scenes because of the genre and subject matter.)

Overall, I think every Christian should read this book, and I absolutely cannot wait for a sequel to come out!

Have you read Counted Worthy? Did you like it? How do you feel about Christianity in fiction, and what other books have you read that do it well? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

Read more:

Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

8 Books Every Christian Teen Should Read

Writing for Building Up (or, I’m Tired of Depressing Stories)

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Book Review: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

Hi guys! I’m back from my blogging hiatus! Regular Mon/Wed/Sat posts will begin again from now until school starts, after which we’ll go back to a twice-a-week schedule which I have yet to decide on. I’m all rested up and it’s so exciting to finally come back to the blog full of new ideas and motivation!

This is a review that I started drafting before my hiatus. I really want to post it, even though it’s been a while, because I have some pretty strong opinions on this series 😉 Enjoy!

My Rating: Two stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

Divergent is another one of those popular trilogies that I didn’t read until several years after they came out. That tends to happen a lot. I’d been hearing about this series for a long time, and finally bought a copy of the first book (last summer??) that I got around to reading recently. (What can I say? I have a large to-be-read pile.)

I liked some things, and really didn’t like others, as is usually the case with popular YA fiction, so this review may be long. Buckle your seatbelts.

The Books

Beatrice Prior lives in a dystopian Chicago society where everyone is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue. When she comes of age, she must choose the faction she will live with for the rest of her life, choosing to stay with her family or desert them for somewhere new. As she goes through initiation with the Dauntless Faction, she learns that she has a great secret, one that could mean her death.

Unrest increases, as one tyrannical leader after another tries to take over the city, which seems to be plummeting toward all-out war. But as Tris discovers more people like her, she learns that not everything is what it seems…and that the world outside the city walls is not as desolate as she thought.

What I Liked

The overall concepts of this series are really cool. As soon as I started reading the first book, the idea of factions fascinated me; I was curious to learn more about the lifestyles of each faction and thought they were really well-developed. The concept of blaming human nature on genetic damage, while definitely not Biblical (and false in the books as well, I might add), is a really interesting idea.

I enjoyed the first book quite a lot until the final section with the simulation and massacre. Reading about her transition into Dauntless, the initiation, and all of that was fun and kept me engaged in the story the whole time. I only bought the first book, and I don’t regret it; if you stop before the greater conflict begins, the whole initiation process is a great story in itself.

The villain figures in the novels are very interesting because they are not purely good or evil. All of them have mixed motivations and can be confusing at times, making them some of the best characters.

Finally, there’s this amazing quote about love in Allegiant that made me so happy (finally someone is representing love slightly accurately in a YA novel!):

“I fell in love with him. But I don’t just stay with him by default as if there’s no one else available to me. I stay with him because I choose to, every day that I wake up, every day that we fight or lie to each other or disappoint each other. I choose him over and over again, and he chooses me.”

While I don’t agree with Veronica Roth’s portrayal of their relationship in many other ways, this quote was just..gold.

What I Didn’t Like

The first, and most major problem I have with these books, is something that I’m going to discuss in greater detail in an upcoming post. They are so depressing. They left me feeling drained, sad, and an emotional mess. And while sometimes I don’t mind that, there was no beauty or depth anywhere to redeem the ugly parts.

I didn’t like Tris much. She was so similar to many other YA main characters I’ve read about…tough, sarcastic, whiny…I would really appreciate some kind, feminine, selfless main characters that could actually be role models for me.

While I liked the first book, the second and third books were not nearly as gripping or interesting. The second book especially took me a very long time to get through, and by the third book I was really tired of the “oh no, we just got rid of a corrupt government and now we have another corrupt government” pattern. There were, let me see, three or four different government corruption issues during the series? It got old.

In the first book, I felt like Dauntless was glorified a little too much. They are the brave, violent, physical faction. Abnegation, on the other hand, the selfless faction, was put down. That bothered me. (To be fair, I later read an interview with Veronica Roth where she said Abnegation was her favorite faction, but that really didn’t come through in the books.)

While the first two books are entirely from Tris’s perspective, the third book has Tris and Tobias’ perspective. That was jolting. Tobias had not been developed nearly enough in the earlier books to have his own unique voice, and so I constantly found myself not realizing it was from his perspective and getting confused when Tris was talked about in the third person. It pulled me out of the story, which I really don’t like.

I did not agree with the ending. I can’t say much because of spoilers, but it wasn’t okay to end the series that way. See my aforementioned issue with Tobias not being developed enough until book 3, and the first paragraph about depressing books.

The bordering-on-inappropriate scene with Tris and Four…excuse me, did Tris really say that was “right”? You’re not married, guys…nope…Also, there was a homosexual character who was just casually presented that way. It wasn’t even a big deal, just another character trait. Roth professes to be a Christian too. Hm.

Content

A couple of the issues I mentioned above were related to this, so I won’t repeat those here. Overall, if Roth is a Christian, I don’t think she did a good job expressing that through her writing.

There is a lot of violence in these books. They are intense, cruel, and sometimes disturbing, which definitely contributed to how drained I felt after reading them. If you are very sensitive to violence, stay away.

There was never anything graphically inappropriate, but like I mentioned before, a few parts bordered on that. And there was definitely quite a bit of swearing. Overall, I wouldn’t recommend these for people under 14 or so, and anyone who’s particularly sensitive.

Overall Thoughts

The only reason I’m glad I read these books is to practice my reviewing skills and pulling out exactly what I liked and didn’t like about a series. They weren’t encouraging or helpful in any way and they left me kind of depressed, like I said before.

That is not the purpose of writing or the purpose of reading. More coming on this later, but I’m realizing that I really can’t recommend anything that is not edifying and good for building up. It’s in the title of my blog, after all…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” -Philippians 4:8

I think I’m going to start more seriously seeking out books that fulfill the requirements of this verse, and this series definitely didn’t.

If you’re still with me after all of that, have an Olympic medal. You can unbuckle your seatbelt now, but you might want to put it back on if you decide to read these books.

What do you think? Have you read Divergent? If so, do you agree with my review? Why or why not? If you haven’t, do you think you will ever read it? 

love, grace

P.S. If you’re looking for an upbuilding series of books, try The Mysterious Benedict Society. It has everything that Divergent doesn’t; unique characters, interesting plot, hope, beauty, and redemption. Such a contrast. Reading Divergent made me love Benedict Society all the more!