Friday, September 30, 2011

Book Review: CHOICES by Kate Buckley

Family secrets, binge drinking, and teen pregnancy clash then erupt in Choices, a compelling coming-of-age journey for fifteen-year-old Kara MacNeil. A sophomore at an all-girls Catholic academy in Colorado, Kara finds herself crossing the line into womanhood far sooner than expected. Panic, fear, and confusion enclose her as she grapples, seemingly alone, with life-altering decisions. Facing a major confrontation with her conservative Catholic parents, Kara discovers her own inner strength and opens to allies that help her heal and move forward with confidence. Choices is the powerful story of a teenage girl who learns to think for herself, takes responsibility for her choices, and uncovers her solid sense of self, emerging from pain different yet strong and secure.

Description: The words in Choices were well chosen.  I didn't feel overwhelmed with details or lost in the scene.  Everything was set right to my preference, clean and simple. Some settings were a little vague, but I found it left more room for the story. I'd have to say for the story, it fit just right. (Score: 7.5/10)

Narrative:  Kate Buckley chose first person point of view (POV) to tell the story of Kara MacNeill.  This style tends to require quite a bit of narrative to move the story along. Inner thought and views are limited only to the main character. Despite a few minor issues, first POV works really well.  The story itself is fast paced and very intense. I think it's a good break for the reader that the narrative is simple, concise and easy to read. Also, I think the way Choices is written widens the reader level, meaning younger, as well as older teens/adults can appreciate this book. (Score: 7.5/10)

Dialogue:  I found the dialogue to be a little distracting.  The main character Kara is fifteen and a sophomore, yet her language is a little young for today's teens, at least in my opinion. Some of the exchanges seem a little forced.  And yet, I found I could overlook it because it was consistent with the voice of Kara.  As a sheltered, protected Catholic schoolgirl, it kind of makes sense that the story feels innocent.  (Score: 7/10)

Characterization:  There's a moderate number of characters in Choices and some of them are a little less defined than others.  Also, it's interesting to note that one character, rather significant to the resolution was introduced very late in the book.  In real life, this actually happens, so though it goes against the "rules" of novels, I think it added to the realism of the story.  As far as the main character, Kara, she was sympathetic to me as a reader. But as a writer, I wanted more.  She did show excellent character growth, but something was missing.  I'm not quite sure what that something is. (Score: 7/10)

Resolution:  Kate Buckley stuck to an authentic, realistic ending that I adore.  The growth of Kara was slow, well defined and then BAM, it all came together.  The character changed, but the reader wasn't told what to think or how to feel.  I found some predictability, but it was a comfort in the heavy content of the novel.  Overall, I liked the resolution and how it left me feeling after I put the book down.  (Score: 8.5/10)

I was nervous about reviewing this book, for a number of reasons.  Mostly, I feared the fact that Choices was self-published. It's not that I'm prejudiced against it; I've just read some substandard books that could have been so much better if only edited more.  BUT, when I did my research on Book Publishers Network and saw they offered editing services, I felt more confident.  And I'm glad I reviewed this book.  Kate Buckley tackles some very serious issues in Choices and does it well.  I know that even as a married woman with two kids, I STILL blame myself for situations when I shouldn't. As a matter of fact, LOTS of people blame me for being "too sexy" or "asking" men to hit on me.  But, that's our culture, I guess.  And I'm thankful for this book, because it puts the truth out there-why girls and women feel pressured in so many ways.  I'd recommend this book to anyone who has ever felt less than precious because she or he had to say no.  Be prepared to feel, because Choices is heavy with emotions.  I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars. 

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