A debut novel tackles big issues—faith and love—with mixed success.
Philip has been looking for answers since his mother died, although he’d never say that, since he can’t talk about her. When he meets an “unconventionally hot” girl who has serious faith, he essentially follows her to church. Much remains unsaid between chapters, while needlessly meaning-laden chapter closers imply closure or answers that never come. Philip’s relationship with church and faith ping-pongs back and forth with lots of epiphanies, while his romantic relationship goes nowhere. Subplots include friendship, Philip’s initially contentious and sometimes awkward relationship with his track coach/spiritual leader, Philip’s relationship with his father and his struggle to come to terms with his parents’ split and his mother’s death. There are bright moments, but characters fall flat (including Philip), and the novel caroms among too many issues to ever truly delve into anything. The evangelical church Philip’s crush attends reads like a list of stereotypes, and it sometimes seems that under the surface pot shots are being taken, although the kindest character in the book is one of the church-group kids: just one more element that remains unresolved.
Overall, a valiant attempt that falls short of the mark. (Fiction. 13-16)