Good fiction expressly written for Catholic teens has been a rarity - until now. Author Christian M. Frank has developed a series, John Paul 2 High. Book one in the series is Catholic Reluctantly and now he has written book two, Trespasses Against Us. Both books are available at The Catholic Company. Even if you don't have any teens in the family, I highly recommend that you buy the books for your local Catholic junior/senior high school. They will be very appreciative.
Trespasses Against Us is a thriller, often instructing the reader about Catholicism without being preachy and presents real life issues all teens face. The series takes place in a newly founded Catholic High School with a very small number of students. Celia is the girl who has a strong prayer life, is very modest and attends Eucharistic Adoration. George, Celia's best friend, asks Allie to be his girlfriend and he wisely seeks the counsel of a priest in confession. Allie has transferred from the local public school and doesn't really understand much of Catholic teaching and often even makes fun of it. Liz is a girl who sneaks behind her parents to spend time with a boy from another school who, like Liz, has no interest in purity.
As a parent, I appreciate the sensitivity the author uses in discussing troubling situations. One student talks with another about 'hickeys' and the girl is portrayed as a rather tragic case. Constantly ignoring the guidance of her friends and parents, she ends up realizing later in the book that perhaps she didn't know best. She seeks the help of Celia, the girl she used to mock because of her strong values. George and Allie, though dating, keep their relationship in check and guard themselves against the temptation to sin. At one point, Allie's stepfather attempts to give George something 'in a small package' out of his wallet. George, flustered, tells the stepfather that their relationship is not like that. Other students are not allowed to date yet and their parents have raised them to understand that dating is for preparation of marriage.
If your children have contact with others who are teens, even if you are a homeschooler, they will encounter children at some point who either rebel against the fine counsel of parents or their parents encourage inappropriate behavior. This book makes it clear in the end that those who call on God for help in difficult situations, frequent the Sacraments and honor their parents are the ones who emerge in the light.
I mentioned that the book is a thriller and thus far I haven't put a fine point on that. There is someone who is sending Allie threatening text messages and e-mails and they are getting more upsetting each time. George wants to be her protector and decides not to go to the police. He thinks he knows who is doing the harassing and believes that talk and reason will put an end to it. He ignores the guidance of his confessor and ends up over his head. I don't want to spoil the story but will just say that there is some violence at the end of book. All of the characters you have grown to care about are in a perilous situation and a person you do not care for ends up not being who you think he was.
I look forward to reading more of the series and highly recommend the book for mature pre-teens through adults. If parents are concerned about some of the topics in the book, I suggest you read it yourself first. Kids are longing for books that are exciting and Catholic at the same time and this is THE series. I asked my 11 year-old if he was interested in reading the book and he soon was deeply immersed in the plot line, rarely putting it down. Here is what he had to say about the book:
"I give this book 5/5 stars. The good thing about this series is that you can start with any book. This book is highly recommended for ages 14-19." A boy of few words.
Trespasses Against Us retails for $12.95, is paperback and 337 pages. UPDATED 10/5/2009: Chris from the Catholic Company shared the following with me via e-mail: "Christian Frank is not a real person, it is a pseudonym being used by the group of authors writing the series. I am hoping to do an interview with them on my show when books 3 and 4 come out soon."