Almost exactly two years ago, I was undergoing a dilemma: how much religion to include in Truest. You can read about the solution I chose (using a parable) here.
Did it work?
On the one hand, you have people saying things like, “Published by HarperCollins Publishers (and not by any of their “Christian” imprints or subsidiaries), this was the most deeply and poignantly Christian YA book I’ve ever read.”
“I also loved the way that Jackie approached the topic of religion. As a teenage girl who, like West, struggles with a relationship with God, it was refreshing to hear all of these characters talk about God but not be God-like saints.”
“Loved the spiritual theme interwoven in the book. Rescue, redemption being a greater priority than perfection. Uncertainty in the midst of a certain God. Great deep stuff than teens need without being preachy. Ironically a book that will be sold in the YA section with a clearer Christian message than most of those sold in the Christian section.”
On the other hand, consider such things as, “Yes, there is religion in this book, which scares a lot of people (present company included!) but it is done is wonderfully. Even though West’s father is a pastor, there is absolutely nothing being preached or forced down the reader’s throat. It’s just his occupation, and a part of their family’s identity, not their entire existence.”
“The faith aspect of Truest made me super nervous, but I thought it was handled beautifully. There’s a lot of stuff about God and belief, and pretty much all of the main characters are devout Christians. Normally, this sort of thing would have me running for the hills, but Truest doesn’t come across as preachy and most of the discussion of god is of a more theological/philosophical bent, and I love those things.”
“Personally, I really appreciated this story having the underlying discussions, thoughts, and questions about God. God wasn’t the center of the book or the story, but He certainly wasn’t kept completely separate either. And even though several of these characters have faith, they’re still imperfect people. Do I always condone or agree with the actions of the characters? No. But I really appreciated a book in today’s society where the main character wasn’t just coming out and saying they don’t believe in God, or they don’t know what to believe, or they’ve had nothing but horrible “church” experiences and thus want nothing to do with God or religion. It was refreshing and I want more. Yet, these characters don’t have it all figured out. There’s just as much that they don’t know as they do, and I think readers who might not enjoy religious aspects in their books will appreciate that these characters weren’t just trying to teach the reader a lesson about God or religion. It never felt like the story was trying to teach me as the reader a lesson but that Jackie Lea Sommers was truly just telling a story. Any lessons the characters learned were lessons for that character and not a moral trying to be taught to the reader.”
I don’t know. It’s not up for me to decide anyway. But I’m happy, and I feel like I was faithful to myself, my God, and my story, and that’s enough.