Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Red Blazer Girls by Michael D. Beil

You know the terms "mortal" and "venial." This book was a mortal disappointment. While reading, I found it slipping into venial problems; I hoped it would stay there, but it crossed the line.

So much promise. I loved the cover ( a mystery! a puzzle!) , the premise (harking back to Nancy Drew), and the setting (a Catholic girls’ school).

I tried to stifle my Spidey instincts when this Catholic-based story received raves by the secular crowd. Alas, there turns out to be reason the pop culture finds it hunky-dory, and it's not because this is a ray of sunshine for the New Evangelization.

First, the plot. A group of 7th grade girls at St. V’s school for girls sets out to solve a mystery, a la’ Nancy Drew-style. (Do you really need the details?)

Well and good. On top of it, we get charming little references to stained-glass windows, a church, a priest, school uniforms, and saints. But soon, you get the tribal Catholic feel: the cultural references are all fun on the surface, but it is not to be taken seriously by we modern sorts. For example, when one of the girls is prepared to pull a Bible out of her backpack in order to research a clue, the response of the cute-boy is something like, you are not actually carrying a Bible? What is that school doing to you? And then, when she “justifies” it as necessary for her homework, all is cool again.

There are Oh my Go-‘s replete (where is a ruler-wielding nun when you need one)?, Holy Craps (which the “cool” priest also says), hel-‘s, dam-‘s, I could live with these as venial if the rest of the novel held promise.

While most of it is a breezy romp with a Catholic-lite flavor, the cultural degradation still comes through.

A character refers to her “psychic” cat as being one of her relatives, reincarnated. One of the schoolgirls jokingly pretends to meditate, Eastern-style (ooohhhmmm…)to calm down the main character, Sophie. We get treated to the flippant comment, “ I don’t think the church burns many people at the stake these days….”

My point-of-no-return was when the star cute-boy was reporting to the main character, his mutual crush, Sophie, on the wild behavior of the girls at the dance she missed. Then, he gets her all stirred up when he proceeds to demonstrates the wild kind of dancing going on by having her stand up and grabs her hips, back to front. To add insult to injury, right before this, Sophie tells about when her friend Margaret was over for dinner and was embarrassed because her parents started talking about their “first times.”

Just in case your child might be thinking you’re doing them a favor by protecting them from a decadent culture with way-too-low sexual standards, the main character makes sure to clarify that her family has frank discussions: she’s not, gasp, a Prude!

Safety Rating: DaVinci Pile


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