Friday, September 19, 2008

The Journey by J. Adams

The war between good and evil is as old as time itself–

so is the absolute truth that each choice is accompanied by a consequence.

Ciran is about to be faced with both.

Two roads lie ahead. Only one leads home.

Which will she choose?

If I've ever wanted to give a book a whole-hearted positive review, it would be this book, The Journey by J. Adams.

I met Jewel Adams years ago, although she probably doesn't remember me. I've heard her speak a couple of times. She is a lovely and gracious woman with many talents and strengths. I admire her very much and appreciate her dedication to LDS youth.

However (you knew there was a however coming, didn't you?), I can't quite give this book the glowing recommendation that I wish I could.

First, the positive things: The Journey is basically the Plan of Salvation set in a YA fantasy. I love that. Sometimes it's easier to teach concepts using allegory, metaphor and parables than to just teach it straight out—especially when you're trying to reach teens. I applaud Jewel's integrity and her desire to take on these truths, and to illustrate them in a way that teens will be able to see commonalities between Ciran, the main character, and themselves.

I love the message—that our choices have consequences. Everything we do makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Too many youth today don't quite make that connection and I think it's an important one. The Journey shows us how Ciran's choices make ripples all around her—some good, some not so good. By presenting this in a fantasy story, it allows the message to get through to the reader in a non-preachy, non-confrontational way.

The problems I have with this book are not with the message or the basic plot line, but with the presentation. Too much time is spent in description, in telling us what happened, rather than letting us experience it as it happens. Some YA readers won't care; others will not have the attention span to get through the slower parts of the story. Also, many of the characters are not fully developed and their personalities and dialogue are interchangeable. I like to see more uniqueness, more individuality.

Another issue I have is that this book was self-published. Don't assume that because I was once a publisher that I'm automatically biased against self-publishing. I'm not. In fact, I don't have a problem with self-publishing as a general rule. This particular book would have been better with tighter editing. Also, it's obvious in the layout of this book, the way the pages are set up and numbered, that the typesetter really did not understand how books are built. The cover is a disappointment—it's not very attractive or appealing and wouldn't catch the eye of the casual browser. This may be nit-picking on my part and perhaps you could make a case that the "average" reader wouldn't really notice these things, but I think they do, if only on an unconscious level. All things being equal, the look and feel of a book can influence the reader and/or buyer as much as the subject. When your book is competing with others that are professionally created and designed, a book like this is at a definite disadvantage. Which is a shame because the message of this book is so strong and so needed in today's world.

This is not to say that I think everyone will have problems with this book. There is definitely a target reader for The Journey, which would be young women between the ages of 12 and 15, who are familiar with the LDS version of the Plan of Salvation and who enjoy fantasy. I would just like to have seen this story polished a little more before going to press so that it would have reached a broader readership.

Overall, I give this book 3 out of 5 stars. There were some things I liked about it and other things that were distracting enough to pull me out of the story. I wouldn't recommend it to everyone, but I would definitely recommend it to the target reader described above. In fact, there are several girls in my neighborhood who I think would like the book very much, and I intend to tell them about it.

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