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For Readers Age 10-14
Grades 6th - 10th

Awakening - Review
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Publisher's Summary:

Cangilla McAdam, Claudia. (2009). Awakening. Manchester, NH: Sophia Institute Press. ISBN: 10: 1933184612. Author and recommend age 12+.

Publisher description: Fear drives me forward as I rush down a rocky path in Jerusalem, trying to sort things out even as dusk makes it harder to hurry. Am I really an American girl, cast back to the time of Jesus? Or a delusional Jewish teen, plagued with visions of a place called America, thousands of years in the future? I don’t know anymore. But I do know that something awful is about to happen to my Jesus: they’re going to arrest him tonight, and kill him. No one believes me; they think I’m crazy. So it’s up to me to save him, hurrying down this dark path toward Gethsemane, toward the turning point of all history, the attempt to kill Jesus . . . toward the uncertainty of whether I can actually manage to change the future


Respect for self and others: This includes integrity (adherence to a code of conduct or value system), honesty vs. manipulation or lying, compassion, caring for others (characters not focused on getting their way no matter what) self respect--main character does not let others denigrate him or her; use of self control and self-discipline ; taking charge of own behaviour; fairness to others (such as taking turns and avoiding the blame game). Reader should ask themselves “How does the protagonist depict their peers?” “Would you want others to treat you this way? Should everyone act this way?” This includes true friendships that do not involve regular lying, deceit or manipulation; considering consequences of actions prior to acting; owning up to responsibility once an action has been taken.

Our main character, Ronni, is in a time of interior crisis, wanting to be cool and rejecting family values. It is a critical time in a teen’s life, and one where teens can treat others poorly as an outlet for their own internal frustrations. Some literature takes this to the extreme, portraying manipulation and meanness as acceptable simply because it exists. In contrast, our character’s behaviour is realistic yet not to the extreme of denigrating self or others. She also exhibits self-control, choosing to be honest with her mother, as well as not to sneak out of her room even though the opportunity presents itself. And once transported to the 1st century, she acts selflessly ministering to all around her. Other characters in the story act similarly, so we see them work through their doubts by maintaining discipline and integrity in behaviour, leading to good outcomes.  

Portrayal of Authority figures: The positive portrayal of parents, teachers, police officers and other “good” authority figures common in a child’s life is a positive influence upon the child’s own moral development. This includes actively-parenting mother and father figures. Minimization of parental involvement in the character’s activities or the portrayal of authority figures as inferior present poor role models. Also to be avoided are main characters that deceive parents and teachers to accomplish goals, and overuse sarcasm towards authority figures. Ask yourself “Are parents seen as positive or negative influence in the character's life?”

Excellent portrayal of authority. Whether 21st century or 1st century family, characters are obedient to their parents who authority is a strong, positive presence. Community authority such as the Roman soldiers and Jewish Pharisees act as expected, and when protagonists escape they do so in a manner that does not belittle or manipulate the authorities.

Citizenship and Patriotism: Loyalty to family, team or group, school, community and world; caring for and being considerate of these groups. Pride to be part of that group or nationality.

Family loyalty underlies the storyline. We see the strains upon Ronni’s relationship with her mother, and her mother’s reliance upon her faith to keep it from breaking. As the story unfolds, parallel to the historical events are the intricacies of family bonds like a web woven throughout. Simultaneously also is the mirroring of her experiences in Jerusalem to her real life at home, reflecting upon things her mother has said which now have new and profound meaning.

The culmination of this is the understanding given to the reader that we are more than just our present existence. A person is their past, present and future, and thus heritage (genealogical, faith, and cultural) is keenly important to living life to its intended fullness. Ronni grows in pride and loyalty to her both her physical and faith families.

Justice and Balance: A just distribution between good and evil (with good outweighing evil in the presence of the storyline); demonstration of right and wrong; making decisions to enact the above values rather than simply choosing from two bad possibilities; Ask yourself “Is the emphasis on the positive elements or negative?”

Given the historical events of the story’s setting, any attempt at a fictional rendition of the crucifixion week can easily be mistreated, inaccurate, illogical, or simply a rehashing of Bible verses. In contrast, Awakening puts its characters in situations of making quick decisions, choosing right over wrong. In doing so, good prevails over evil whether it be the temptation to run away from home, the opportunity to manipulate her crush out of jealousy of their mutual friend, to manipulate authorities, and so on. Decisions of right vs. wrong and outcomes of good vs. evil stand out more in biblical times when the characters fear for their well being; these aren’t always as obvious in our modern day existence and the correlation of the actions taken in the historical setting to Ronni’s modern day life cause the reader to automatically make those connections without being led, taught or preached to.

Aesthetic aspects Of life ExperienceLook for a storyline portrayal of beauty, health, and selfless love vs. hedonistic behaviours (sexuality, selfishness, obsessiveness, materialism), profanity, gore and violence. Are nature and environment respected or exploited? Look for dark elements; watch out for humor that is negative, denigrates others excessively, uses metaphors to denigrate the sacred.

Although the story would be enhanced with a bit more description in settings, it is well done nonetheless. We smell the scents of food, foul odors, quality of the air breathed, and difficulty of the everyday struggle for existence. Knowing the self-discipline and mores’ enforced by the culture of that time, the author has maintained true historical accuracy by not imposing sexual inferences or tones, profanity, or modern day political agendas upon the storyline. Facts and details built into the story are historically accurate and so of interest to Christians and non-Christians alike (and a better choice to read than recent best-selling books who built their infamy upon perverting facts). Historical accuracy also gives it a purpose to be library bookshelves as well as in public and private classrooms.

Other things to Consider:Other aspects of this book of interest or importance. For example, does it portray Wiccan practices and accurate use of tools of which some parents might object, does it contain hidden meanings in metaphors that may prove offensive to some families; does it address personal issues such as puberty or pregnancy.

No concerns to highlight. The main character experiences teen angst typical of her age as well as a first crush, so parents of younger readers will want to consider their family Do-Re-Mi’s when choosing this book. Once again, I recommend families, homeschool groups and youth groups form book clubs as a means of bonding spiritually and socially. The author of Awakening has provided an excellent, chapter-by-chapter guide for book clubs AND chapter exams for teachers at  . You can also direct your reader to the website of the Custodians of the Holy Land Friars to see videos of the real site: . Wow, what a great addition to your classroom or homeschool curriculum!

So what do YOU think? Read our thoughts on the book and join in the discussion: Litland's Blog   

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