Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl by Melody Carlson (review)

It's a Green Thing: Diary of a Teenage Girl by Melody Carlson
Copyright 2009
Multnomah - Christian Young Adult Fiction
245 pages

This review may include spoilers!!! You have been warned.

I didn't realize till I got my copy of Diary of a Teenage Girl, that "It's a Green Thing" is a series. The first book is called A Not-So-Simple Life. Unfortunately, I have no idea what happened in the first installment. Maya Stark, the continuing character writing this series of fictional journals, is the daughter of a rock star and apparently a fairly new Christian. Her father is on tour and her mother is in jail for drug possession. Maya's life has become more normal than it's ever been, now that she's living in a small town with her uncle Allen and cousin Kim.

You noticed the spoiler warning, right? I'm just saying . . .

It's summer vacation. Maya and a rotating group of friends begin the book by painting a mural on a wall. A good portion of the beginning of the book is dedicated to the painting of the mural, which Maya has designed, conversation with friends (one of whom is not a Christian and loves to party), dating a fellow named Dominic and meeting with her Christian mentor. While painting the wall, one of the girls in her church youth group falls but she's up and walking around in no time. So it's a total shock when Maya finds out that not only is Brooke not okay, she is also planning to sue Maya. As to the "green thing" bit in the title, Maya is a dedicated environmentalist and when her uncle offers her a chance to write a column in his newspaper, she agrees. Little environmental tips are scattered throughout the book.

I had a lot of trouble with this book. First, Maya begins the book a vegan and then becomes convinced that God put animals on the earth for a purpose and, at the very least, it's okay to become vegetarian. Second, the entire concept of a teenager falling and then suing another teenager is extraordinarily weak, whether or not her dad is a rock star. Third, Maya worries constantly that she'll end up going too far with Dominic, even at the beginning of their relationship -- and her mentor tells Maya that when she had that problem she just stopped dating. Fourth, so many things fall easily into place for Maya (by the end of the book she has three different jobs) that she comes off as . . . well, fictional.

I found this book dull and the writing simplistic, to be honest, but my main concern was that it was incredibly preachy. There's a constant emphasis on the imperfection of Christians -- that they're just as human as everyone else. And, yet, Maya repeatedly wonders whether this or that person can possibly be a Christian if they don't behave like perfect little automatons. Wait! The point is that Christians are human . . . the "Christian" bit means they subscribe to a certain set of beliefs. Believing in something doesn't necessarily make you behave in a certain manner. You have to work at that part.

There are so many things I disliked about this book that I think it would be unfair to go into everything that bothered me in detail. Instead, I'm going to withhold judgment and hope the preachiness level is a one-off. I've got a second book by this author which is not related to this series. I've heard so many positive comments about her that I'm hoping the next one will be better. There's an excerpt from Diary of a Teenage Girl in the sneak peek post below. I'll let readers judge for themselves, but I think most Christian fiction has moved beyond this kind of writing and I'm disappointed. It's not a book I'd recommend.

One thing I did like:

The "green" tips throughout the book on energy saving and recycling (apart from the last tip, which was about a wasted life). I was most interested in the shoe recycling program because runners tend to go through shoes rather rapidly, so I looked up shoe recycling programs online and found this wonderful list of different programs, world-wide:

Run the Planet Shoe Recycling Programs

Even ugly old battered running shoes can be recycled into bouncy bits of playground padding. Very cool.


  1. Nice. I love the picture of the author on the post below!

  2. Jessica,

    That's a nice photo, I agree. It's a happy picture.

  3. I love the idea of recycling old running shoes! I have a pair I have been meaning to put in the trash. I looked to see if there was a center in St. Louis and didn't find one. That makes me mad!

  4. Kris,

    I have a terrible time throwing out running shoes. Usually, I just keep on wearing them but stop using them for running till they fall apart. No center in St. Louis? That's surprising. But, now you know where to look. :)

  5. I don't like getting rid of them either. When I retire a pair of running shoes it becomes the pair I use to work in the yard. Since I recently bought new running shoes, I have two pairs of old ones at home...and need to get rid of the oldest one...but just can't. haha! I'm also having a hard time throwing out a pair of diesels that are two worn to wear anymore, I really loved those shoes. haha!

  6. I'm excited! I did a search and found a place close to where I live that is doing a recycle drive in April for old shoes! Yeah! I'll hang on to them for a bit longer and make sure I go to the drive. I'll have to bug Chris for old shoes that can't be donated too.

  7. Kris,

    Very cool! I'll probably just send mine away, next time. I've sent old cell phones for recycling. David would happily fill up the landfills of the world with our used junk, but if there's any life in something left at all, I can't bear to just toss it. Donate, yes -- throw away, no.

  8. I'm with you, I hate throwing stuff away! In the past I posted a ton of stuff on freecycle and everyone always wants it. With the new house, we've posted stuff we removed on craigs list and sold it all (including carpet that we took up). If I can't put it in my recycle bin, I try to get rid of it in other ways.

  9. I haven't had any luck with either freecycle or craigslist, but we're semi-rural. Not enough population around us, I guess, for things like that to work. I donate a LOT -- the rescue mission loves me.

  10. Writing that is as you described (especially the overly preachy part) is just not fun to read. I agree that most Christian fiction has improved greatly in recent years.

    The shoe recycling thing sounds like a great idea. I hadn't even thought about that possibility.

  11. Anonymous3:46 PM

    Slaikeu, Karl. Oh, that's the name on the third page of the Stephen Lawhead books at my library. I thought I'd read something by him but I didn't recognize any of them.

    Ah yes. The actual post to which I'm commenting? Ummm...not my cup of tea.

    That's a cute cat cartoon! And suuuure you didn't drink that brew the poppet is protecting.

    I cannot believe I let your blog get so far behind. I blame your couple books. :)

  12. Alyce,

    Exactly -- it's not fun to read. Plus, I don't want people to assume all Christians think that way. My preference is a read in which Christianity is a part of characterization but not a platform for the author's agenda. Of course, that's true in any book. Preach at me about atheism, Judaism, the proper way to peel an orange, whether or not we should have a death penalty or anything else and I'll get fussy. LOL

    Isn't that great? I love the idea of passing on decent shoes to other people who can use them and turning the ugly ruined ones into playground padding. So cool.


    Honey, I think you've done a few too many tax forms. I'd send you some valium, if I had any. Valium or maybe a good strong coffee.

    Okay, back on topic. If you haven't read Stephen Lawhead, you definitely should give him a go. The teenager is on the verge of finishing Taliesin and I am much pleased. Such a relief to find they do carry his books, after all. I knew the kiddo would like him. I think you will, also.

    Nope, not your cuppa.

    Isn't that cute? Of course, we're partial to cat sketches, but cat sketches with women missing brains are double the fun.

    No, no, it's not the books. It's the tax forms and the pink whatsits.

  13. I actually liked this book. I feel some of your same concerns of course. I am a go green kind of girl too which may be why I liked it. I agree with you on things work out too perfectly espically in the end. :)

  14. Brittanie,

    I liked the green bits, but that's about it. The book just didn't do a thing for me. But, I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)


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