an early morning/late night YA book review.

Well, everyone, at this early hour, I'd like to discuss a adolescent literature book I kinda hated. Not totally hated, but kinda.

I'd post a picture of the cover for you, but I already tried doing that a thousand times, and it wouldn't work. There is a reason I don't post photos very often.

Oh, no, that time I pleased the blog gods, and it worked. Behold, Taken By Storm by Angela Morrison.

I'll start off by telling you that this is a Mormon Book. And that while I know that the author didn't select the cover, whoever did clearly abides by the blonde girl=chaste mentality Jack Weyland (see earlier post) so lovingly espouses. Anyway.

You see, Leesie, the main character, is a good Mormon girl living out in the Mission Field. (I believe it is Washington.) She doesn't have any friends in her school, since no one is LDS, and all non-LDS people do drugs, apparently. But fear not! Leesie is a senior, and determined to get into BYU, find her happily ever after husband, and leave her heathen high school peers behind. Thank goodness for BYU.

Then, Michael moves into town. Michael is NOT MORMON. Danger! Michael is also recently orphaned, and dealing with grief in a variety of self-destructive behaviors.

Of course, Leesie and Michael start dating, and Michael wants to do it. (Meaningful glance.) WHATEVER WILL OUR HEROINE DO????? (Or not do, pervy snicker.)

Shoot. I am making it sound like I totally hated this book, and I didn't. So let us back-track and talk about the good points of the novel.

1. Angela Morrison is a fairly decent writer. The book is co-narrated by both Leesie and Michael, and she is adept at creating two distinct voices, and the transitions between the two are quite graceful. Talent wise, Morrison could kick Weyland's trash.

2. Micheal's grief over his parent's death is realistically portrayed, and the writing allowed me to empathize with him as a reader, which is important. In fact, if the entire novel had been about Micheal, this post would be a lot different.

There. Done. Now we shall return to aspects of the novel that inspired the "kinda hate." Items are listed according to the level of annoyance they achieved, the first being the most mild.

1. BYU. Oh. My. Gosh. BYU is portrayed as impossible to get into, compared to Stanford academically, and as the only school where anyone has ANY standards whatsoever.**

Flip to the back cover. Who went to BYU? Angela Morrison. Oh, I see.

Here's the thing. BYU is a good school. I know this. Here's the other thing. I was accepted to BYU twice. I could have never been accepted to Stanford. BYU is not Ivy League.

There are also lots of schools with learning environments conducive to people of the LDS faith. Morrison made it sound like anything outside of BYU was a party school, including BYU-I.

This little tidbit immediately triggered my radar for Negative LDS Stereotypes Often Found in LDS Literature. And said radar didn't stop blinking until I finished the novel.

2. Leesie very rarely mentions wanting to go to BYU for the academics. It is only to escape her High School of Whores and Drug Addicts, and find an eternal companion. Just once, I would have liked a passage where Leesie looks over a course catalog, or talks about what she might accomplish with her degree. Instead, you read alot about how the only way Leesie can meet her future husband is to get into BYU.


2a. It was really hard to believe that Leesie couldn't find any friends in her high school with high standards. LDS or not, logic dictates that even a small school in Washington will have nice girls to hang out with, and nice boys to go to dances with. Again, she lives in Washington, not Compton. There are lots of nice non-LDS people, I know this. I have met them. And Morrison should know this too.

3. According to Leesie, everything about Mormonism fits in a nice little box. For instance, in one of her poems (Did I tell you that a significant chunk of the book is written in the form of Leesie's poetry. Ooops. I think I buried that memory.*) she describes her future husband as blonde (the hair color of the righteous,) wearing a white button-down, wearing a CTR ring, and holding well-worn scriptures. In her fantasy, they chastely kiss (the B.O.M is between them....just kidding,) and live happily ever after. For Leesie, all Mormons look, and act the same. Furthermore, she also makes a lot of randomly offensive statements like "Mormons who marry non-Mormons always get divorced." Later, when Leesie and Michael go to a Stake dance together, Leesie insists that everyone is judging her, and that now no good LDS boys will date her because she is "fallen."

After bashing members as judgemental, and non-members as sinners, she is very surprised when Michael doesn't want to get baptized right away.

I still can't tell if Morrison was trying to make Leesie annoying as possible, or if Morrison believes this herself, but I would really like to see some LDS literature that depicts the complexities of being Mormon. Perhaps from the perspective of someone not raised in Salt Lake, not blonde, or maybe even from a family of combined faiths. Because there really are very few people who fit the mold described by Leesie and/or Morrison. So, heads up, writers: Mormons come in a variety of shapes and sizes.


4. Michael wants to have sex with Leesie. Leesie says no. Which is awesome. Hurray for standards! Hurray for not wantonly having sex! But her reasoning was very disturbing to me. She didn't want to sleep with Michael because if she did, she wouldn't get an ecclesiastical endorsement from her Bishop, and wouldn't be allowed to go to BYU.

Um. No.

Alternative ending:

Michael: Let's have sex!

Leesie: No thanks!

Michael: Why?

Leesie:Because I have a testimony of the gospel. I know Heavenly Father wants me to be happy, so he has given me commandments and standards to help me be happy, and return to him someday. Obeying my Heavenly Father and being happy in the long run is the most important thing to me. I make these choices because I believe in the gospel. ***

I guess the way Morrison wrote it made it sound like Leesie might have slept with Michael if BYU hadn't been in the picture, which seems insincere, and frankly, kind of lame. Combined with her desire to go to BYU for equally lame reasons, Leesie just seemed false.

I like my female role-models strong, sincere, and not afraid of making out.

(Again, though, I can't tell if Morrison is trying to depict Leesie as the hero, or if she is much more clever than I thought ((She did go to BYU,))and is depicting Leesie as the anti-hero. I don't know. It is much too meta for me. )

Anyway, I know this is super long (typing makes me tired, which is always the goal with long posts written after midnight.) I also know that a lot of people have read novel, and liked it, so note that my opinion is not the only one, or the most valid. And if you have read this book, and got a different impression, feel free to comment.

*Oh my gosh, the agony of teenage poetry. I know. I wrote some myself. Stab me in the eyeballs with my own chewed -on pen.

** I think this part bugged me more than normal, because I spent a lot of time with a girl who believed this to be true. I never stopped hearing about it. Actually said girl had a lot in common with Leesie, and I guess this is something that I should have mentioned before I started. If I read a book, and a character reminds me of a person I don't like, I will have a hard time liking the book, in general. There. Bias Noted. (Lately, but noted nonetheless.)

***I totally got my Ecclesiastical Endorsement. BOTH TIMES.


The Boob Nazi said...

I still don't understand why it's blonde girls who are righteous. But as a faux blonde, I'll take it.
I will admit to the fact that I wanted to go to BYU in order to meet friends who didn't drink. I had friends in high school who didn't drink, and it was awesome. But then they started to drink. And I knew I wouldn't make friends at church or anything (because I've never had friends at church), so I wanted to go to BYU.
Before you judge me, you should also know that I wanted to go to get good grades to get into med school. I had a plan!

NIKOL said...

I have obviously missed out on so much by not reading YA LDS literature.

MJ said...

HAHA! Great review. I myself haven't read this particular book, but I've read enough teen LDS fiction to have ruined me. (I'm a MormonWOMANBride because of it. And I, of course, read the majority of the Jack Weyland books. My daughters, should I have any, will not.)

Oh, well. I like my life better now than I would had I gotten married to the guy I was engaged to in my early 20s.

I do have to say, I like the adult LDS action/adventure fiction. Some are really cheesy, but the majority of the books I've read lack the general stereotypes.

AzĂșcar said...

I am waiting to be dragged down to hell because I'm a brunette.

Wendy Sparrow said...

Washington is full of heathens. In my town of seven thousand people, we only have six wards. Six! That means that finding another LDS person here is roughly "mildly difficult if you're not looking."

Not having sex so that you can get an ecclesiastical endorsement? That is whack.

I love that you've acknowledged that blonde is the hair color of righteousness.

JRO said...

I am from Washington and went to BYU. I had no idea when I showed up that people (generally of the female variety) went to college to find a spouse. It was the furthest thing from my mind at 18. I left BYU spouseless (thank goodness) and made my way back to Washington, which is apparently the land of the heathens. I'm not sure if I was just totally clueless about the looking for a husband thing at BYU or if living in "the mission field" (seriously is that what Utahns call the rest of the US?) does that to you.

stewbert said...

"the mission field." oh, my pet peeve... hate that.

yes, a lot of Utah Mormons do call the rest of the WORLD "the mission field."

they are idiots.


Stephanie said...

dude, i hate it too, stewbert!

just so we know, i was being sarcastic. i don't use that term in seriousness.


James McOmber said...

1. It occurs to me that Morrison must have been trying to use Leesie to point out certain pitfalls of quasi-righteousness - sort of like an unreliable narrator kind of thing. But that's me being optimistic. Maybe Morrison was projecting her own ideas and saw little wrong with them.

2. Where did "part **" go in the entry?

3. Nice post above this one (no comments allowed). Hooray for liberals!

SammyStewart said...

Note: Went to BYU-Idaho and was the least interested in marriage of all my roommates. Really! Got engaged 2 days after I turned 18. (Still graduated, BTW). The roommate who REALLY wanted to get married is now the only one not married. We're all 21 now. She's the "old maid." LOL...

She's a brunette. Me, too. Hmmm...

Also, BYU snobbery is irritating, especially when it's directed at its northerly sister school...

Amelia said...

I am happy to find your blog. I too went to Westminster (English degree) and grew up in UT and don't understand the CRAZY stereotypes of these books. Check out A.E. Cannon. Local author. Mormon voice. Not annoying. No (or less anyway) stereotypes. She is really great. YALit for the intelligent.
Amazing Gracie, Cal Cameron by Day Spiderman by Night, or Shadow Brothers. All great titles.

Mrs. Clark said...

I elected to go to BYU (as a non-member!) partly because it was the 70s and my other choice was UCLA, and I didn't want to inadvertently take LSD-laden potato chips at a party. But I had lots of friends who had very high standards when I was in high school, and we are friends still! And I hate LDS books with stereotypes. You ought to read Heaven Knows Why, the best LDS novel ever.

Kimbooly said...

What? I thought that you went to college to get your M. R. S. degree. Right????

I must say, having gotten an ElEd degree (Elementary Education), it made me roll my eyes because a lot of girls picked that just so they could find the guy and have a degree that would help them be a good mommy, and because they just "loved" kids.

I didn't want to be lumped in the same category, and so always interjected how I wanted to teach handicapped kids (which I really did) and would get an emphasis in said field.

Except I completed my degree in 3 1/2 years and burned myself out (read: should have taken more fun classes and enjoyed myself and taken my time to graduate instead of being SO education-minded). So I finished the degree with no emphasis.

And got married between the 2nd & 3rd year. And had a mormon baby 2 years after getting married (I know, I know, I really "waited" awhile, for being mormon, right?)And stayed home and take care of me 3.6 kids.

Um, but I still love my degree and am glad I got it, even if I didn't get to use it like I intended to! (I really intended to teach! Does teaching piano lessons count?)

So, now I'm a great PTA mom with a degree in teaching; any volunteering I do in the classroom, I don't get paid for. And of course a lot of it is cutting things and making copies. At least I would have gotten paid for that if I was teaching. But luckily my kids have great teachers, and they often let me teach small groups instead of just grading papers, which I L.O.V.E.

But oh well. As it turns out, I feel like I've been closer to 100% of the influence over my kids until they started school, whereas in a classroom I would have been maybe 10-30% of the influence of molding their bright young minds, so, I am happy where I am, even though I'M TOTALLY FINE and HAPPY with anyone who is a working mom, too! It's an individual thing, and you do what works for you.

Ash said...

I think almost all romantic novels written by women have very strong male characters, and underdeveloped, lame female characters. Almost.

Julie said...

I went to BYU for the music program.... see.... some people DID look at the class ciriculum pamphlet!

Tammy said...

I barfed in my mouth throughout this post.
My teenage poetry is pain fully hilarious. We should have a reading.

Janssen said...

I can't tell you how surprised I was that this book was published by a mainstream author.

I forgot how annoying this book was.