The hard-working wallflower has finally landed the coveted spot as Editor of her school’s newspaper. Then the rug is ripped out from under her when she finds out her mom is sick, and the family is moving half-way across the country to Preston Hills, Texas. Lexy can’t think of a worse place to be than at a school full of snobby rich kids where she’ll have to start all over to get people to notice her writing, or–who is she kidding?—notice her at all.
PRODIGAL is a different kind of love story, where faith, romance, and God converge . . . and it just might change the way you look at your life.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The blurb and the cover image didn’t reveal anything particularly unique or intriguing, and if anything, I was instantly put off by the the one-two punch of clichéd high school romance and religious undertones. I’ve been overwhelmed by the former as of late, and although I don’t seek it out, the latter tends to leave a bad taste in my mouth, with my ultimate takeaway being that the author is trying to preach to me rather than entertain me (somewhat relevant note: I am nonreligious).
Despite my misgivings, I found myself riveted by the simple, skillful writing style, the character development and the heartfelt romance and message that form Lexy Quinn’s story.
The characters are all endearing in their own way. Lexy is a sweet and well-meaning protagonist who I can easily identify with even without the whole journalist thing. By the end of the novel she has become a strong, confident young woman and I feel confident cheering along. Female characters in romance writing sometimes get that weepy, helpless, useless-without-a-man-on-her-arm syndrome – not Lexy. Even though she finds herself falling hard for the handsome rich kid as per usual in the genre, she also learns her worth as a whole person.
And what can I say about Ash Preston… again, he could’ve gone the way of the generic hero, but despite being the Handsome, Rich Jock That Teaches the Frumpy Girl How to Love™, I quickly found myself cooing over how dreamy he is. He’s smart, sensitive, chivalrous, and funny. He’s also the first openly religious character – he ends up giving Lexy a copy of “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” so she can pay attention to the Christian analogies. At the same time, he runs hot and cold… sometimes he’s passionate and open with Lexy, other times he closes himself off and becomes inexplicably distant. Ironically, that makes me like him even more, because that’s exactly how real hormonal teenage guys behave. I mean, who wants to swoon over a fictional character that’s perfect? Give me a sweet, flawed boy any day.
Funny thing is, Jesus isn’t mentioned even once in the whole book – “God” is said countless times and Christianity is implied, but no one ever says outright, “Jesus died for your sins, ask and you will be saved, etc.” which I actually think is a point in the novel’s favor because its message can be applicable to other monotheistic religions, or general spirituality, as well. In that way, the story doesn’t alienate anyone. There were two conversations between Lexy and her friend Peyton that struck me as overly preachy, a la After School Specials or a church PSA, but I chuckled about it and went on reading anyway. Honestly though, the spiritual lessons are pretty universal, so I still felt myself taking something away from it.
The author does an admirable job of combining her belief in God with the reality of high school. Yes, many characters in the story openly talk of going to church, and ministering (complete with recital of Biblical passages) does occur. But ultimately, we’re still talking about teenagers… you know, drama everywhere. No one is flawless, no one is self-righteous or “holier-than-thou.” The guys still talk about how hot so-and-so is, the girls squabble and stab each other in the back… This, I think, is the best way a faith-based story should be told. Not that I’m particularly experienced in this area, but still!
Final verdict: This isn’t going to win awards for originality or gravitas, but the great thing about Prodigal is that it doesn’t have to. It succeeds at painting an engrossing, genuine picture of a teenage love affair along with the trials and triumphs of growing up and coming into your own. 4/5 stars. I would recommend this to my lovesick romantic types regardless of their religious affiliation (or lack thereof).
Disclosure notes: The publisher of this book contacted me via email requesting a review and a paperback copy was sent to me free of charge. I did not receive any other compensation for reading and reviewing this book. Blurb and cover image courtesy of author’s website.