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Joshua Wynn - son of Reverend Isaiah P. Wynn and First Lady Lily Wynn of Mount Calvary church - is a seventeen year old Christian who lets his light shine. He's president of the church youth group and a member of the choir. He visits senior citizens at the Faith Nursing Home regularly, he can quote Scripture as well as any adult Christian and he believes in abstaining from sex until marriage. This young man has a heart for God and he cares about doing the right thing. He also cares about Madeline (Maddie) Marie Smith. He and she were friends when they were younger but then she left Conway, South Carolina and moved to Norfolk, Virginia. Five years later Maddie moves back to Conway and she's certainly not a little girl anymore. Joshua is surprised to see the young woman she's become. Will he be able to remain true to his Christian values and help Maddie renew her faith in Christianity? Or will he forget all about being a good guy and compromise his beliefs?
The Bible is Joshua's moral blueprint just as it should be for every Christian, but his peers (including Maddie) attacked him for his beliefs. He was called names like prude and self-righteous and he was made fun of because of his good choices. Sadly, that is the reality (not in every circumstance, I hope), but I didn't like it. I especially didn't like the way Tony talked to Joshua. Tony was supposed to be Joshua's friend but he was always condemning him for wanting to do the right thing. And Christians are the judgmental ones? Tony should have had the sense to follow Joshua's example. There's nothing wrong with being a good guy. And Joshua's ex-girlfriend, Jennifer - She didn't know what she had when she was with Joshua. Since Joshua's presence bothered his peers so much they must have felt they were doing wrong. They had to try to make him feel bad for his good choices so they could feel better about their not-so-good choices. I'm sure Joshua was intelligent enough to get that, but still, it can be hard to resist peer pressure; especially for a young man who's expected to be an example of all things good. We all break the rules sometimes; that's just being human.
The foul language in this story was a bit much and, surprisingly, most of it came from the female character, Maddie. At age fifteen she made a bad choice and her father's reaction didn't help matters. His hurtful words caused her to rebel by taking on many bad habits that only made her feel even worse about herself. I'm thinking she had such a nasty mouth because she was hurting so badly but she could have gotten her points across without all of the profanity. She was a real good girl on the inside, I could see it. She was just bogged down with so much bad stuff that she couldn't find her way and she was too stubborn, or maybe even feeling too guilty about the bad choices she made to let anybody help her; not even Joshua, whose love for her was unconditional. It would have been nice if Joshua would have discouraged Maddie from bad behavior because I really wanted to see her happy. I wanted to say Maddie was a bad influence on Joshua, but I won't because he was old enough to make his own choices. I was so disappointed, though, when he did the things he did but, sadly, that part of the story was also realistic. It isn't always the good one who uplifts the not-so-good; sometimes the person with bad habits will pull down the one trying to live right.
About Maddie's father, Gregory Smith, Pastor of Sunset Valley Baptist Church: This so-called man of God should have been ashamed of himself for the way he treated his daughter. He didn't just break her heart, he broke her spirit! He's obviously a saved person who thinks he's above everyone else, which shows that he doesn't know what Christianity is all about. God is no respecter of persons; He loves us all the same. He also expects Christians to share His love with others and He surely expects fathers to love and protect their children. It was unfortunate that his actions caused Maddie to mistrust so many who weren't responsible for what he had done (all Christians aren't judgmental, hypocrites), but I am so glad she didn't stop believing in God.
There is content I must address out of respect for the heavenly Father and for the sake of every reader; especially the young people: Maddie says, "For your information, the Bible doesn't even say that premarital sex is wrong. All it talks about is sexual immorality." I'll begin with a definition of fornication: Consensual sexual intercourse between a man and woman who are not married (the definition for premarital sex is the same). What the Bible says: 1 Corinthians 6:18 - Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body - That's from the King James , and, to make it more plain, here is 1 Corinthians 6:18 -The New Living Translation: Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does, for "sexual immorality" is a sin against your own body - God is speaking to Christians. Joshua is a Christian and I'm assuming Maddie is also. I don't know if she really believed what she said or if she was trying to justify her choice to have sex before marriage, but there is a wrong message being sent.
All-in-all Saving Maddie was a good read. Actually, I have to say it was a real page-turner and the ending was touching.
Joshua & Maddie are not star-crossed lovers. Rather, these two are the best & truest of friends. They share a different kind of love that goes beyond what anyone thinks about them. As children they spent all their time together in and out of church while their fathers were the ministers preaching the gospel. But when Maddie's father is transferred to another parish, Maddie & Joshua vow to write each other every day to keep in touch. For a while that works until Maddie stops writing back.
Eventually Joshua gives up writing her & begins to move on with his faith by being the pinnacle preacher's son. He leads the youth group, he volunteers at the nursing home & he even abstains from all morally compromising situations. While it makes him an outcast at parties (who really wants to drink alcohol & get frisky with their date with the preacher's kid?) Joshua has settled into a comfortable existence. And just like that Maddie shows up all dark & jaded.
Now Joshua has to decide who he's living his life for & why. There are so many questions & so little time. Events are escalating all over town with pressure from every imaginable direction baring down on Joshua. The only thing he can do is choose, but who & what?
I really enjoyed this book. It was exactly what I was expecting it to be in all the right ways. As a teen I spent a week each summer at a church camp in the mountains of North Carolina. While we were all feeling our way around our faith, there were several campers who were preacher's kids (pk's) that we all looked to for example & spiritual guidance. The second day of my sophomore year one of them said it wasn't easy to be a pk & that they were just as lost as we were. While they had a duty to uphold & represent their parent's ministry, they were really just putting on a brave face because it's what was expected of them.
Joshua is in the exact same predicament. He's been following the predetermined path thinking he had free will all along until free will actually showed up & said 'hi.' Now he's kind of floating along trying to wrestle not only with his faith, but his family, his friends, his emotions & definitely his hormones. Maddie is the typical rebel, except she's deeply spiritual leading the reader to become endeared to her. Able to quote chapter & verse on command, Maddie is also lost. Unlike Joshua though, she claims she doesn't want to find the right path.
There is so much going on in this book that I felt consumed by it. Again, in a good way. It has been a long time since I have really been able to soak up the feeling of a book & completely relate to all characters involved. No one in this book is anywhere near perfect, but they all blend together to make you understand that that's okay.
Truly, I don't have enough words to adequately explain my love for this book. While there are many "controversial" topics (sex, alcohol, promiscuity, etc) they are needed in the context of the book & the main characters' struggles. I think I'd feel comfortable with a 7th or 8th grader reading this, as long as they could question anything & everything they read. :)
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2012
Joshua Wynn is a preacher's son who tries to live his life by the bible and finds himself caught between the desires of a normal teenage boy and the Christian values he has been taught all his life. He has to keep up the image of the youth president and all around stigma of being the preacher's son. Just when he is finally getting a handle on his desires, his best friend from childhood comes back into town. She is an outcaste from most of the town's congregation because of the way she dressed and her wayward ways. Joshua finds himself still madly in love with her and tries to save her from the downward spiral her life has become, in the process he faces temptation that he has never felt before. He begins to question every thing he was taught growing up and learns that even though it hurts he has to let go of Maddie so she can find her own way in life.
I liked the way Varian Johnson (the author) seemed to understand the teenage mind and how the pressures of being a teenager can be. I was a little disappointed in not knowing what happened to Maddie and Joshua after Joshua wrote his last letter to her. I kept wanting to know weather Maddie found a better life. I was happy to know that the he left the story open to write a sequel if he wanted to.
Joshua Wynn has grown up being an example for other kids: The Wynn Boy. He doesn't seem to mind too much, except that he had to give up on his school's basketball team to lead the youth group and that everyone his age thinks he's some kind of prude. But even these things don't dampen his spirits, and he works very hard to keep his reputation. He has to; he's "Joshua Wynn, the preacher's son. ... a shining example of what [is] good and righteous and wholesome in the world" (28). More like some kind of super-hero than a real person, don't you think? It's not until Maddie comes back into his life that Joshua starts to object to the perceptions that other people have of him and the pressure that he is under, from his parents and the community, to do and be good. And no, he never liked that he gets left out of things because he's such a goodie-two-shoes, that he's the guy other kids hide their beer from at parties, but until Maddie comes along, it's as though he didn't know he could be any different. She opens up a world for him where he is not an extension of his father and his father's work.
Now, I've never been a PK, but I was raised by one, and I was definitely a goodie-two-shoes in high school who had more friends at youth group than at school. I think that Johnson has absolutely nailed that experience, or at least mirrored mine. The feelings and internal conflicts that Joshua goes through felt so authentic. His struggle to reconcile what he wants to do with what he's supposed to do with what everyone else is doing was ongoing. The lectures from his parents ("I'm not mad, I'm disappointed." -- the worst!) and the advice from his friends to just go for it (the BIG it, no less), were so familiar. And then there's Maddie, who seems so much more grown-up, experienced, and figured out than Joshua. Of course he falls for her! There is definitely attraction involved, but Joshua also gets one of those I-want-to-be-you crushes on her.
Saving Maddie is told from Joshua's perspective, so we don't get to see the inner workings of Maddie's head. Through her talks with Joshua, however, she becomes a fully realized and complex character. Something that makes up a large part of Maddie, and everyone else's problem with her, is that she is no longer religious. BUT she still has her faith. This disconnect between faith and religion is something that a lot of teens struggle with, not just PKs. Without going into great detail or getting bogged down in theology, Johnson makes Maddie an example of what it can mean to believe in God without participating in a specific religious tradition. She still considers herself spiritual and a Christian, but she doesn't go to church. Joshua sees her spirituality acted out in her life, rather than her Sunday attendance. It's a less obvious way of teaching-by-example than the kind of life he has been living, and while he may not change to be non-religious like Maddie, he definitely learns from her. Seeing how she acts out her faith in what she does rather than what she doesn't do gives him more choices for how he can show his. And he finally does that by sticking up for Maddie.
I could go on and on about Saving Maddie; there are at least half a dozen more quotes left in my notes. Johnson has done something wonderful here. He's managed to capture the PK experience, and the growing-up-at-church experience, so well! And he's managed to do it in a way that, I think, will be attractive and relevant to readers who've grown up without these experiences as well.
This was not only a wonderful book for young adults that deals truthfully with the hard-learned lessons of maturing in a world of rules and regulations, but it's also a great book for parents who need to see the problems that arise when our youth try their best to be the saints that so many of us want them to be. My mother used to hate the words, "I need to find myself," that teenagers had the tendency to utter at their parents. But...those words still ring true, and this particular YA deals with the subject extremely well.
Our story deals with a young man by the name of Joshua Wynn. Joshua is beyond the realm of a "good kid." In fact, he's almost saint-like. He is the son of Reverend Isaiah P. Wynn, and this kid is every mother's dream. Joshua leads the youth group at church; he's in the choir; and, he spends his free time visiting at the senior center in his hometown and playing chess with the older gentlemen there. While his friends are seeking out and delving into the intricacies of life such as premarital relations - Joshua is trying with all his might to set "a good example" for his peers and help his father keep their "flock" on the straight and narrow path.
Joshua's first love was Maddie Smith. When she was a child they were best friends - both of their fathers were preachers, so they had a lot in common. All Joshua can really remember was Maddie's scent; she smelled like vanilla, and he never forgot about the girl who moved away. Five years later Maddie returns to the small town. She's been sent back to live with her Aunt in order to "clean up her act." Maddie has changed; the once carefree preacher's daughter has had issues with boyfriends and school, and has let go of her faith because she simply doesn't like how the "faithful" treat people. Now, don't get me wrong, Maddie loves God and believes - but the tenets of organized religion break her heart. She is so sick of people preaching forgiveness and then, in the same sentence, condemning her for wearing purple lipstick, and a form-fitting dress. As far as she's concerned, the righteous are the biggest hypocrites on the planet.
The whole story is the back and forth friendship between Joshua and Maddie. Her good points, such as a quest for life and happiness, do battle with Joshua's inability to step outside his family's circle and become his own man. Joshua can certainly memorize and repeat verbatim the ideas of others that've been written down over the years, but he has a very difficult time feeling any emotion or having an opinion of his own. Watching their interactions and seeing both sides of the story is what this book does best.
This story is fun for young adults, as well as something they can learn from. They will sit, read, and nod their heads - feeling the same sort of pressures that Joshua and Maddie feel. As a Christian, I am in total agreement with the young Maddie. I, too, believe in the higher power and beg for His forgiveness and help every day - but I'm no saint, and I think it is absolutely ridiculous to expect children who have questions about things to not talk, not ask, and go forward just accepting everyone else's ideas and never having one of their own. As parents, we need to have the ability to talk to our children about issues that they stumble over. And, above all, we need to remember that those issues were things that we battled at one time, and the general atmosphere of the world is a lot worse today than it was then.
If parents and young adults read this together, not only will the tale bring everyone closer to a higher power, but it will also bring them closer to each other.
Until Next Time, Amy Lignor, Bookpleasures.com Reviewer
I have a feeling people may shy away from this book just because of the religious aspect. Which is really unfortunate because I thought it was really awesome! Yes it has a lot of religion in it, but I think it is so much more than that.
I think my biggest surprise (which I should have realized from the description) is that it's told from Josh's point of view. It so rare that the guy in the story is the "good" character. And Josh is way more than good, for a teen he's dang near saintly. Josh's issue is that he's never stopped to think for himself. He's grow up with God in the house and from a very young age has had the bible and it's message pounded into his brain. It's amazing to watch him start to realize that not everything needs to be taken at face value. I think it's appropriate for a teen to question their own religious beliefs. They spend so many years thinking how their parents think, it's only natural for them to realize they have a mind of their own. It's not a bad things either.
I liked Maddie as well. She has deep seeded reasons for being troubled. And I was expecting her to be much worse than she actually was (or maybe the author made her seem more tame). I liked that she made Josh question everything. She wasn't trying to get him to go against his beliefs. She just wanted to make sure he knew what HE actually believed in. I think if the story had an epilogue we would have learned she came back to the church. She didn't need saved, she needed to come to terms with what had been done to her (both by others and herself). I was floored by the way her father treated her (and her mother allowed it).
So, if you can handle the religious aspect of this book, I would highly recommend it!
Maddie and Joshua are best friends. Both kids of preachers, they have a lot in common. But then, one day Maddie and her family move away. The two vow to keep in touch, but as the years go by....the letters and communication stop.
Now, it's five years later and Joshua is the perfect son. He does everything expected of him. He's involved in all the right activities. He's gone so far as to give up basketball because it doesn't fit in with all his church obligations.
It's at church, as one could expect, that Joshua lays eyes on Maddie again. Though she's nothing like the awkward girl he recalls. She's definitely grown up (in all the right places) and goes by Madeline now. Coming to church dressed inappropriately immediately labels Madeline as a bad girl. Everyone has already written her off as trouble. But Joshua can't forget his friend and, with the blessing of his father, he sets out to save Madeline.
Madeline has been sent to live with her aunt for the summer. She got in trouble back home, and her father has shipped her off to the small town. But Madeline doesn't need saving. She's happy with who she is and resists any attempts at any interference. As the summer unfolds, Joshua and Madeline become reacquainted, and surprisingly, it's Joshua who might just be saved.
As with MY LIFE AS A RHOMBUS, I absolutely loved SAVING MADDIE. Joshua is pulled by what is expected of him, what he perceives as right and wrong, and ultimately, what he really wants for himself. Madeline makes him question everything he grew up accepting to be true. Madeline may not be a saint, far from it, but she is comfortable with who she has become and that causes Joshua much inner turmoil.
There is some discussion of sex and partying, but in the context of the story, it's far from offensive and gives a complete picture of the struggle going on inside Joshua.
Maddie and Joshua were best friends. They understood each other, they were both PK - Preacher's Kids. But then one day Maddie's family moves and they grow apart. Five years later she returns, but she is not the same person. Maddie, now Madeline, has left the church and has quite a reputation as a bad girl. Joshua is determined to bring her back into the church, but finds that Madeline is opening his eyes and make him think about his beliefs.
The story revolves around Josh trying to figure out what happened to Madeline in the five years she was gone that could change her so much. She hates her father and the church, but she won't say why. As Josh tries to get Madeline to open up to him, he finds her opening his mind. Forcing him to think about his beliefs instead of blindly doing what he has been taught his whole life. The two grow close and each of them learns so much more about themselves in the process.