Friday, April 25, 2008

Review: Catholic Reluctantly

Sophia Press has just published the first in a fascinating new series created by a team of young Catholic authors for young Catholic teens.

This series, John Paul 2 High, is written specifically for Catholic teens and the series purports to tell stories with problems and solutions that Catholic teens may encounter in their high school years. My 16 year-old daughter and I have read the first in the series and are very impressed with the story, the writing and the overall intent of the series.

So here’s the story-line of the first book, Catholic Reluctantly: A Catholic school opened by parents is about to increase their enrollment by 40 percent – two new students are about to join the other five students in the run-down halls of John Paul 2 High School. The studentsare all different, with different academic and social backgrounds. In fact, the only thing that links the teens is that they’re all at least nominally Catholic. This sets up conflict from the get-go as each student is at a different place in their faith-journey. The seven characters are each a distinct "type" which you might find in a Catholic high school of 7 or 700.

First, we meet Allie, a beautiful girl coming from the 10th grade of the nearby public school, whose mother wants to protect her from a scary event that happened at the large public school. At one point in the story, her parent's marriage is challenged as her birth-parents are divroced and her mom has re-amrried.

Next is George, an athletic, handsome teen who has also been recently removed from a larger 10th grade class at a Catholic high school; his biggest upset as the book starts is that he won’t be able to wrestle at this itty-bitty school. George is the kid who all pretty much like but has some issues (including being the only son of a single mom).

Celia is an almost too-sweet, very Catholic girl who has known George all her life; her dad is the driving force behind the school. Celia's character avoids being too drippy because she stands up for what she believes and is the real strength behind the student body.

J.P. is a joke-cracking, prank-doing 9th grader whose mom is also one of the teachers. J.P. is one of those kids that always gets a laugh but also saves the day in the end. Somehow, he makes it through.

Liz, who can’t seem to understand how she ever landed at JP 2 High, is the daughter of the science teacher and a 9th grader who is trying to live a “real” high school life in spite of this minimal enrollment body of students. She's athletic but also immature and doesn't always know how to handle high school.

Brian is a preppy, brilliant 9th grade student who has been homeschooled in the past. He's an interesting character as he's sort of the "token Black" but not quite. Read the book and tell me how you would define him.

The last of the students, and the newest, is James – he’s a rigoristic home-taught 11th grade student who has some socializing issues. I wish they hadn't presented the completely homeschooled kid as an anti-social, almost psycho kind of kid ... but then again, I do know kids like this one. He's an outsider who doesn't know how to fit in.

This first book brings these seven students together – with the teachers and parents who want the school to succeed – and has clashes of personality and teen-issues throughout the book. The past keeps haunting all the characters and the future looks none too bright as the school building is as shaky as the people involved. By the end of the book, you’re hoping for the lasting success of the school and hoping it can grow to be self-sufficient.

The book reads very well; it’s a definite page-turner with lots of surprises and events that keep the reader going. Because it’s trying to be realistic, this book doesn’t solve all the problems and mysteries within the 300+ pages. You’re meant to end the book, shaking your head, wondering “but what about?”

By the way, “Christian M. Frank” is a team of young Catholic writers – the penname comes from the fact that some of the authors went to Christendom and some went to Franciscan University (and the M. is for the Blessed Mother). Regina Doman, noted author of Shadow of the Bear and Black as Night, is the overall series editor and part of the team of authors working on these books. Doman’s writing experience shines through; what could become a tangled batch of words ends as a cohesive whole under her editorship.

My daughter and I are looking forward to the next volume in the series, Vengeance, Sort Of due out shortly. Catholic Reluctantly is available directly from Sophia Press, or can be purchased from Amazon and other retail book outlets. For further information about this first book, the series or the team writing the books, please check their website, .

1 comment:

regina doman said...

Thanks for the post, Mary! I'm so glad you liked the book.
As a homeschooler myself, I'm hoping people don't "read" too much into the fact that James was homeschooled. There will be many more homeschooled characters in the future who I hope will give a more balanced perspective on homeschooling.

Peace and good
Regina Doman, Series Editor
John Paul 2 High

See my books at