07 May 2013

Book Series Review: "The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor" by Melody Carlson

Synopsis: Samantha McGregor has had a tough time lately.  Her father, a police officer, died in the line of duty; her brother is a drug addict; and her mom is always depressed.  That may sound complicated enough, but, then, Sam is given a unique gift from God that makes matters even more complicated: The ability to have visions and dreams about future events.  As she soon finds out, it isn't something to be taken lightly; her visions show that many people, including her friends and even her family, are in grave danger.  With God's help, and a little assistance from Ebony, a former colleague of her father's, she can stop the worst from happening...but will she?

Plot: 4.5/5
Sort of like a more serious version of That's So Raven, Samantha's various entanglements kept me enthralled from the start.  Every book--except for the last one, of course--ended with a cliffhanger that left me panting for the next one.  I did find that the final volume, Payback, was slightly slow in parts, but it still had a knock-your-socks-off finale, which I will not give away here.

Writing: 4.75/5
As usual for Melody Carlson, this is written amazingly well.  The first person narration is so well done, you can easily hear a teenage girl's voice in your head while reading her words.  Someone should get a young actress like Victoria Justice or Bridgit Mendler to perform an audio narration; seriously, those who prefer to hear their books instead of read them would be in for a treat if they listened to this on CD.

Content Concerns:
(Please keep in mind that this is a young adult book series, and, therefore, not intended for young children!) 
  • Sex: Discussions of teenagers having sex, though it is all vilified.  One story arc features a child predator.
  • Nudity: None.
  • Violence: Fights involving teenagers are both shown and discussed.  A kid dies in a fire.  Some of the visions also involve violence.  A shooting is discussed in somewhat lurid detail.  All of the violence, however, is shown as sinful and not an answer to problems.
  • Drugs: As mentioned above, the protagonist's brother is a drug-addict; elsewhere, someone else dies due to drug use.  All of it is vilified.
  • Language: Implied usage of profanity, though it is vilified.
  • Frightening/Intense Scenes: The whole tone of the series is bleak.  Samantha has a vision of hell that is somewhat freaky.  Her mom also goes missing, and it is assumed that she was kidnapped by a significant other.  The possibility of a terrorist attacking a prom may be unsettling in light of recent events.
  • Other: Some may be bothered by the series' premise of a girl who has visions from God.
 Conclusion: What a great find.  My local used bookstore had the entire series for sale, and I had enough credit, so, I figured, why not?  I ended up being glad I bought them; The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor is the best literary series I've read since Christy Miller several months ago.  Anyone who enjoys Christian supernatural fiction should definitely seek this one out; you will definitely be glad that you did.

Score: 4.75/5 

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