Last week I received a lousy review for my latest release, Out with the In Crowd. It's an unfortunate part of the business, and while you brace yourself for it, it's always a bit crushing when it happens.
Except for this time.
Out with the In Crowd is book two in The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. In the first book, Me, Just Different, we learned that Skylar's 15-year-old sister is pregnant. One of the story lines in Out with the In Crowd is about Abbie wrestling with what to do after the baby's born. Yet the entire story is told from Skylar's perspective, so we also see a lot of what the pregnancy does to the rest of the family. Particularly because Abbie is in a bit of denial and a lot of the baby prep (diapers, picking out a crib, etc.) somehow falls on Skylar's shoulders.
I never set out to make a statement about teen pregnancy. It's just the direction the story went, and in writing Out with the In Crowd, I portrayed how Skylar, who's recently become a Christian, deals with her sister's mistake.
Apparently, whether I meant to or not, I made a statement. And one particular reviewer wasn't a fan of it. What troubled me most about her review was this statement: “Years ago it would be incredibly shameful to show your face in public with an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; today it is the norm. But I question that it should be for Christians. I don’t think it should be, regardless of what the world around us is doing.”
At first this made me laugh out loud. I just sat there and reread it over and over, shocked. I mean, seriously? SERIOUSLY??? We're not talking about a couple of acquaintances. We're talking about a big sister taking care of her little sister the best way she knows how.
And then as the comment sunk it, it occurred to me how incredibly sad this viewpoint is. How can you read the gospels and believe this? After learning how Jesus chose Matthew, a tax collector, to be a disciple. How He dined with Zacchaeus. How He stood at the well with the Samaritan woman who’d had five husbands and now lived with another man, yet made her feel accepted and loved. How He allowed a woman who the Bible simply says had lived a “sinful life” to wash and perfume his feet.
A book of mine is never, ever going to make this reviewer happy. Abbie is my second favorite part of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series. (My first favorite is Skylar’s reinvention, as you might assume.) What I love about Abbie’s story is that she shows how sinful decisions carry consequences, like having a baby at 15, but God’s grace is bigger. He loves me—a girl who waited until she was married to have sex—as much as he loves the Abbies of the world. He loves McKenna and the little boy I’m carrying right now—conceived in holy wedlock—as much as he loves the children of girls like Abbie.
And I’m grateful for this. Because while sex before marriage hasn’t been an area in my life where I’ve struggled, I’ve still used an abundance of God’s grace. We all have. And I have every intention of continuing to write stories that explore that.