Tuesday, August 11, 2009

June Bug by Chris Fabry (review)

June Bug by Chris Fabry
Copyright 2009
Tyndale House - Fiction/General
326 pages
Chris Fabry's website

Some people know every little thing about themselves, like how much they weighed when they were born and how long they were from head to toe and which hospital their mama gave birth to them in and stuff like that.

. . . My dad says there's a lot of things people don't need and that their houses get cluttered with it and they store it in basements that flood and get ruined, so it's better to live simple and do what you want rather than get tied down to a mortgage - whatever that is. I guess that's why we live in an RV. Some people say "live out of," but I don't see how you can live out of something when you're living inside it and that's what we do. Daddy sleeps on the bed by the big window in the back, and I sleep in the one over the driver's seat. You have to remember not to sit up real quick in the morning or you'll have a headache all day, but it's nice having your own room.

I believed everything my daddy told me until I walked into Walmart and saw my picture on a poster over by the place where the guy with the blue vest stands. He had clear tubes going into his nose, and a hiss of air came out every time he said, "Welcome to Walmart."

June Bug is a 9-year-old girl who has lived on the road with her father for 7 years. She doesn't know a thing about her mother, has been educated entirely by her dad and is just a little bit tired of living a nomadic life; but, she has a terrific father and knows she has it good in many ways. While she and her father are stuck in Colorado, waiting for an RV part, she sees a poster of a missing girl named Natalie Anne Edwards in Walmart and is stunned. The computerized image of what Natalie should look like is practically a mirror image of herself. June Bug starts to question her father at nearly the same time a car is pulled out of a lake in Dogwood, West Virginia and a missing girl by the name of Natalie Anne Edwards becomes national news, again, 7 years after her disappearance. And, that's all I'm going to tell you because there's a lot that happens in this book but I don't want to ruin it.

June Bug is a tale that is heartbreakingly beautiful, emotionally charged and gripping -- utterly, completely gripping because the author skillfully and slowly peels the layers away, revealing the story of how and why one little girl disappeared, her father's history, and all about her family. The story is general fiction, but the mystery element is so tantalizing that it was impossible to put down. I read the book in one day (very unusual - I'm not a fast reader).

Now, the kicker. June Bug's publisher is Tyndale House, a Christian publishing company. Yes, it has Christian elements, but again . . . simply a superlative book, not preachy. It is really mind-blowing to me that just 7 or 8 years ago I was unwilling to touch a Christian book because I thought they were, in general, plodding and inferior. Most of the best books I've read this year have been Christian titles.

I can't tell you how that has shocked me. They are well-written, beautifully plotted, unique stories. And, the "preachy thing" is almost entirely absent from Christian writing, which is how it needs to be. My objective in reading Christian or inspirational books is to read books that have good storylines without the elements I dislike. Graphic sex, swearing and violence don't necessarily improve a book in any way, in my opinion; they just make some of us cringe. It's also especially exciting to find that there are now so many books that I'm comfortable handing to my teenager.

The only flaw I found in June Bug is that the beginning sounds more like it was written by a 9-year-old than the remainder of the book. The paragraphs above are the opening three paragraphs (minus a couple of sentences, due to space considerations). After the opening chapter, June Bug seems to become a great deal sharper and less childish in a short time, but never to the point that she's impossible to believe in. Also, the ending . . . agony. I love/hate the ending. I synopsized the book for my husband and told him why I wanted the book to end a certain way and how it ended. We agreed that it had to end the way it did -- it simply wouldn't have worked for it to have ended the way my heart desired.

My way of dealing with an ending I don't love is to either mentally change it or tack on an extra imaginary ending in my head. I can't tell you my imagined ending because then you'd know the real one. Just go out and buy it. If you hate it, you can ignore me the next time I say "Buy this book," because I almost never do. I don't want 200 people to blame me for a bad reading experience. June Bug is an excellent read -- no two ways about it. Because of the slight inconsistency in tone, I'm taking off a half-point. I can't bear to take off any more than that.

4.5/5 - Excellent writing, emotionally engaging, well-developed characters, solid plotting. I found this book impossible to put down. I actually figured out the mystery about 50 pages before the end but it didn't matter one whit. How the author ended the book was just as important as the actual resolution to the mystery element. The characters are so amazing that you just have to know what's going to happen to them.

I'm writing this on Monday and I've been hammering out reviews like crazy, today. My rear end is totally numb. So, not a lot of chatter, but maybe I'll babble at you in the next post. My camera and I have not been out much at all, this summer, and I think I need to go on a field trip or two in order to get some pictures worth sharing. I noticed the lantana at my son's school is drawing a few hummingbirds and the occasional butterfly. I'm not sure I can sneak onto the school grounds without having a reason (security, barricades, etc. -- very annoying), so maybe I'll just show up early for after-school pick-up and see if I can catch something flying or fluttering around the shrubs. It seems like the weather has negatively impacted the butterfly and hummingbird life, around town. I'm not even seeing them at the pool -- where it's not unusual to see 4 or 5 different varieties of butterfly on the same plant.

Well, looky there. Somebody got carried away and chattered, after all. Better shut up and read. Happy Monday!


  1. This sounds like a good book. I might not have even considered it if it was labeled Christian Fiction, but after reading your review, I will promise to be more open minded. I wouldn't want to miss out on a good book, that's for sure!!

  2. Oh that sounds really good! I'm going to look for that one. Great review Nancy!

  3. Great review. I saw another review of this one this morning and thought that I'd really like it and after reading your thoughts I'm pretty sure I will. I really enjoy Christian fiction. It leaves you feeling good and hopeful I find.

  4. Sharon,

    I'd hate for anyone to miss a book this good, simply because of the Christian elements. I hope you will read it! I think you'd enjoy the story.


    Thanks! It's a terrific book -- one that keeps rolling around in my head. I absolutely fell in love with June Bug and her father. It would actually make a great movie. I've got the father mentally cast, already!


    That's a good point -- Christian titles do tend to have feel-good endings. I've been really amazed at how much I've enjoyed the Christian titles I've read, this year. June Bug is so good. I hope you run right out and grab a copy because I want to hear your thoughts!

  5. I loved this one. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and I rarely give anything 5 stars. I agree that June Bug's voice sounded too mature for a 9-year old. But, it still worked, didn't it?

    Great review.

  6. Holly,

    Yep, it did work. I almost gave the book 5 stars, but the change from childish voice to slightly more mature stood out enough that I felt kind of obligated to take off half a point for a technical error. The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it doesn't matter. The book was definitely one of the best I've read in 2009, so I might go back and change my rating.

    Thank you!

  7. This one sounds fascinating. I'll have to keep it in mind. :)

  8. Great review! I love intelligent Christian fiction so I'll look for this one!!!

    (Life by Candlelight)

  9. I liked this book too. Great review!

  10. Krista,

    I can't imagine anyone not liking this book and I'm positive you would. You should definitely seek it out. :)


    The more I think about it, the stronger my feeling that I should go back and change my rating to 5/5. The book is so good, I want everyone to read it so we can all talk. LOL I think you'll love it. :)

  11. Preachy fiction can be good, but many people simply don't want to hear the message involved because perhaps they find it offensives or it is too much at odds with their viewpoint. Even when it is those things though, some of the best and most enlightening things a person can read are that which is opposed to how he think things ought to be.

    God Bless,

  12. Brittanie,

    It was great, wasn't it? I keep thinking I should go back and change my rating to 5/5.


    By "preachy" I mean the kind of book that shouts its theme too forcefully. A well-written book can get the message across without making readers feel like it's been hammered into their heads -- and that extends to all genres. The Chamber by John Grisham is, I think, an excellent general example of going overboard on trying to ram a theme down readers' throats. I didn't necessarily disagree with Grisham's theme ("the death penalty is wrong and leads to the deaths of innocents"), but the author's agenda was so obvious that the preaching aspect really ruined the book, in my opinion.

    I agree with you that a message that challenges one's viewpoints is a good thing. But, I also think that there is a very odd prejudice against books that are openly Christian, thematically, and the best way to draw in more readers is with subtlety. As a Christian, I am absolutely thrilled that there are books with positive themes, Christian elements and fantastic storylines that I can recommend to friends who deliberately avoid "Christian" books. I don't think a subtle book is necessarily lacking in a challenge to one's viewpoint. I think, rather, that a reader can be challenged and respected by the author at the same time.

  13. I like your definition of preachy. Best I've ever heard. And I'm adding this book to my TBR list. Thanks, Bookfool.

  14. Booklogged,

    Thanks, babe. I appreciate the fact that you took time to say you agree with my thoughts about preachiness. Hope you love June Bug as much as I did!!

  15. Grab that camera and get out there missy! I've really been getting into taking more photos myself and I love it.

    Hey, check out my new blog: http://nikkilooch.blogspot.com

  16. Until recently, I never ventured into the Christian fiction section of our store, other than to shelve new books. However, you've written some compelling reviews for several books and I've made a list to sample from. This one is going on the top of the list - it sounds fabulous! And, I should be more accurate. The section is labeled Inspirational Fiction, not Christian Fiction. Thanks for the awesome review, Nancy!

  17. Nikki,

    Every time I plan to grab the camera and go somewhere, it rains!!! This summer has been so weird. Yesterday, I was going to take the camera to the pool but kiddo wanted to drive himself (and a fellow who keeps tagging along), so he just dumped me off at home. 5 minutes later, the thunder began. Sigh.

    I like your new hangout. I'll drop by later to comment. My head is throbbing, so I'm going back to bed. Yeow.


    I think June Bug and Sweetwater Run are probably the two I'd most highly recommend to you. Same here. I wasn't even looking at Christian/Inspirational fiction till last year (end of the year). Remember, I used to work in a bookstore and I could read off the shelves. 8 years ago, C/I titles were dull, preachy and/or too long. I'm impressed with the changes. I hope you do read June Bug and love it as much as I did!!!!

  18. I had it wrong. It's Religious Inspiration!

  19. Les,

    They change that all the time. I'd say "inspirational" is close enough! That's what they used to be called, anyway.

  20. I read such great reviews of Christian fiction titles, but I simply can't let go of the thought that they will be moralistic and boring. This book sounds nothing like what I expect Christian fiction to be; I didn't even know it was part of the genre till you told me.

  21. Hazra,

    Christian books *used* to be moralistic and boring. Now, they tend to be more like mainstream fiction in that they have characters who are Christian and situations where they might pray or talk about the Bible, but they're just elements and they belong in the same way a Jewish character in a fiction title may think about or read Torah and ponder on its lessons or a Muslim roll out a prayer mat to pray.

    June Bug would be a good starting place, if you're worried about hating a book because of the Christian elements. There are time June Bug's father gets advice from other Christians or they talk about a verse, or she reads from her Bible. But, the book is about June Bug, how she came to be where she was and what her father needed to do to make things right. It's not about Christianity; their Christianity is just one facet of who they are. It's just a fantastic read. :)

  22. I'm not very religious and yet I find I really enjoy a lot of the current Christian lit, it isn't nearly as preachy as I thought it would be. Some of the Christian thriller writers, like Ted Dekker write a heck of a good story too!

    I'm going to keep an eye out for June Bug, great review!

  23. Kelly,

    I haven't read Ted Dekker, yet. I need to fix that hole in my reading repertoire. Thanks for mentioning him. The change in Christian/inspiration lit is, I'm guessing, probably a deliberate one and I personally think it's great. The whole point is that readers are in search of a good story and just about nobody wants to feel like they're getting knocked on the head with anyone else's opinions. At least, that's how I see it. :)

    June Bug is so good. It's still rolling around in my head. I so hope someone will turn it into a movie!!!


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