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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My review of Bad Idea by Todd and Jedd Hafer...

From the publisher:

A weird family, one messed-up guy, and an angry coyote transform Griffin Smith's rite-of-passage road trip to his freshman year of college into an attitude-changing adventure! As their journey takes random detours and the states blur by, Griffin, his best friend, father, and kid brother learn life lessons about forgiveness, integrity, and character.

My review:

I'll admit I feel a bit conflicted about this book. I've worked with troubled kids for over twenty years so I know where the authors are coming from. The book was compulsively readable. The wit, sarcasm, and analogies were the most original and creative I've ever read. The authors clearly had insight into a troubled kid's head as well. I'm not sure I agree that the content is for kids as young as twelve, though, despite what the recommended age level is. For one thing, Griffin does a lot of dangerous stuff in this book including self-mutilation and drinking secretively through the majority of the book. My concern would be that a troubled kid would read about something they'd never done before (like burn themselves) and try it because they read about it as a way of coping for Griffin and if they thinks he's cool...

I dunno. I remember being 12 and 13 and reading a book about girls who were anorexic and trying to imitate their behavior when I was upset because I thought they were cool. That's what I'm getting at here. I liked how the authors gave incredible insight via the first person point of view into Griffin's inner heart attitude and his extreme pain over his mother's abandonment and how that played out in his life. I also liked how they showed the lessons Griffin learned over time, though they were slow at coming out and then the book was over. I'm also a bit conflicted on the spiritual element because from reading this book you sort of get the impression that Griffin sees himself as a Christian, yet his thoughts don't seem to match up with how a truly spiritually regenerated person would view things. He seemed to have no hope at all so that didn't sit right with me. However, he did seem to understand grace more in the end, so something obviously happened to his heart to change his impression of what a relationship with Christ means.

Some of the stuff in Bad Idea is truly LOL funny, but even when reading snippets to my two teenage sons, I could not get them interested in reading this book and they are the target audience! Some of the stuff seemed too thirty-something sounding in Griffin's thoughts. What 18 year-old knows what Billy Idol's fish hook snarl looks like? Or am I just out of touch with the pop culture of today? At any rate, I still recommend this book for a snappy read to someone who loves angst and works with troubled youth. I'm just not so sure I'd recommend it to troubled teens as a resource. Sure, they might also self-mutilate and can identify with Griffin's thought process, however, if they don't already self-mutilate I'd hate to think they had now just discovered a whole new way to hurt themselves via a Christian book. Make sense?

I love edgy stuff, so I had to really sleep on this one before I put my thoughts down to be fair to the authors. I still want to read the sequel.

Bad Idea was published by NavPress THINK and released in August 2006.


Anonymous said...

humm... tough... but l dont think its a book l would buy off the shelf... Percy

Karla said...

Good review. I read the book and also came away with mixed feelings.

M. C. Pearson said...

At first I loved this book and was laughing so hard with it...then I got further into it and the self-mutilating was just so horrible that I couldn't finish reading it. Yuck. I really doubt I'd recommend this to anybody either.

Great review. Couldn't have said it better myself!

But I would change the last sentence...I won't be reading the sequel.

Jedd Hafer said...

First, congratulations on making it through being a troubled young person. Every success story is an inspiration to me.

We just saw this review and appreciate it very much. We really do want to be edgy AND inspirational. We find 'edgy' to be pretty scarce in Christian fiction.

Please keep in mind, our intended audience is NOT troubled kids, but Christian kids and 'seekers' who wouldn't read your average Christian book and people who work with kids (youth pastors) and/or want to peek inside their heads.
One of our messages is that the problems Griffin has are not just 'other' kids - cutting and self-harm, substance abuse and illicit sex are happening in churches and in youth groups. We want kids who are not there yet or are struggling to know that they are not alone. You are correct that while Griffin is so bright, he doesn't really get grace. He starts to get it at the very end of the book, but he isn't there. We tried to be honest in exposing the doubts and misperceptions that cause many kids who are raised in church to leave the church. We hope you do read and enjoy the sequel. We certainly hope we won't steer a kid on the edge in a wrong direction. We also agree with you that 12 is too young. More like 15 & up. We say 'young adults' when people ask.
Thank you for your honesty.
Jedd Hafer

Michelle said...

Just to add to Jedd's comment, I do agree this book would be a good resource for youth pastors and people like that. Which is why I wish it wasn't being marketed to kids 12-15 years old.

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