I wrote this in reply to a mother looking to see if Karen Kingsbury was right reading for her 16 year old. I think as you can see in my reply, that it will vary from child to child.
There are books that are inappropriate for young adults. Why? The romantic content? Most often, it is because of the true life content. True life is gritty and often not neat and clean. Here is the letter I wrote, but it is a message for all moms looking to help teach their daughters to choose good reading material. Be careful that you don’t judge a book by it’s cover.
Dear Mom looking for reading material and wondering if Karen Kingsbury is appropriate,
Well, it depends what you are looking for. They are not romance novels, in fact that is highly offensive to even classify them as such.
One thing that I often see Christian parents of readers do is worry about content of romance in books. Karen Kingsbury, her newer series, I would not recommend. However, most of her books are deep.
They are written for adults. They do have some romance in them, but they are well known for inducing prayer and tears. It depends what you want your daughter to learn.
For example- When Joy Comes to stay – subject matter, young woman that desires children and has severe depression. She spends some time in a mental hospital over the course of the book as God works in her heart and mind.
-A Moment of Weakness- The story of a godly couple that fall into sin- “a moment of weakness” and the consequences which are lifelong and lasting. Sin doesn’t pay.
-Just beyond the Clouds- The main characters are disabled children, one of which is terrified when the sun goes behind the clouds. At one point, another young man with down’s syndrome, comforts her saying “Daisy, it is still there. It is just Beyond the clouds.” There is a romantic thread with the workers that work with the children with disabilities which are going through many hard things. This speaks to them as they realize that when things seem dark and dreary, God is there..”Just beyond the clouds”.
-The Redemption Series- This is written for adults. This was written with Gary Smalley and is a self help/marriage book series in a fiction form. A married woman discovers her professor husband is cheating on her. Can she forgive him and go through the steps a Christian woman should do to save her marriage? What about when a friend from the past that is seemingly perfect shows up and it would be easy to leave and start over?
As you can see, they are not “romance novels”, but deal with harsh issues of life which you may not want your 16 year old reading yet. I would recommend instead she may look to some other authors. There are many amazing Christian fiction authors out there with, yes, some light romance (but that is part of life, and not something we can avoid. It is inate nature that we long for love). If she liked Jane Austen, check out Linore Burkard.
As a conservative mom, you may appreciate this blog, as she denotes every minor detail which may be a problem for any conservative mom. She rates books as romantic that have very minor threads of romance and details bad language if they call a woman a “biddy”. http://booksforchristiangirls.blogspot.com
This is another one with detailed/strict reviews of books. http://ctfdevourer.blogspot.com
One thing I would try to stay away from, is generalizing and calling people that work hard on their craft of writing detailed Christian books “romance novels”. Work on teaching your daughter instead as she reads, when a book crosses a line that should not be crossed. In 2 or 3 years, she could be married and dealing with real life romance. The majority of Christian fiction on the market, actually deals with real life romance type lines now, not the cheesy “handsome guy meets lovely lady, they fall in love and live happily ever after.” Yes, there are some still, but they are not as common. As I am working in this industry, meeting the faces behind the books, you would be amazed at the amazing Christian truths spoken in Christian fiction. You miss out on a whole lot of wonderful teaching by skipping christian fiction. The other day, a young woman read a book “Dear Mr. Knightley” by Katherine Reay. It is written in a similar style to “Daddy Long Legs”. I was so blessed when her mother came to me and said “You would not believe what God did in her life by reading that book. She was able to release something that she had been holding onto for years. In tears and prayer, she has moved on. That book has changed her life!” There are so many transforming Christian fiction out there. That is what you want to look for for your daughter without the fear of that a small about of a romantic thread will damage her. I hope this helps.
We as moms have a serious job ahead of us, We however can stunt our daughters by worrying at times, protecting them to the point that they end up naive. We miss out on the glorious teen years before they leave home, are married, by sheltering them from all the things we believe they should not think about. Do you honestly believe that by not reading a book without romance is going to prevent her from thinking about? I will give you human nature, which God created in us. We are born to love. It is normal and natural. Yes, it should not consume us. We should be teaching self discipline, control, and the fruits of the spirit to our children. However, we also should be teaching them by good Christian literature, what it can look like. Discuss with your children when you see something that is not real life. Don’t cheapen Christian fiction. Remember you are accusing your brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you are ever looking for a group to just ask a question about a particular Christian fiction book, check out this FB group! They are Avid Christian readers, with many different opinions! They can give you the answers.