Saturday, August 20, 2011

Amen, L.A. by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Amen, L.A. by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Release Date: July 12, 2011
Publisher: Ember
Pages: 272
Format: Advanced Reader’s Copy
Source: Publisher

When Natalie Shelton and her family move from Minnesota to Beverly Hills, more changes than their zip code. Natalie's mom accepts a position as pastor with the Church of Beverly Hills—and Natalie's along for the ride. Before she can blink, she's living in a mansion once owned by Ricardo Montalban, going to school with hot young Hollywood stars, and partying in the park with kids who know no limits. It's an amazing new life—but if she doesn't watch out, Natalie could find herself seriously messed up. Natalie has values... but how long can she hold on to them?

Confession: Ordinarily, I probably wouldn’t read a book like this one. It looks interesting, but there are quite a lot of books out there and—to the immense relief of my friends and family—only one me. As far as Book Darwinism goes, this one didn’t really stand a chance against some of the other goodies on my bookshelves.

But luckily for me, for this book, and for y’all, I know someone who worked on Amen, L.A. This someone gave me an ARC a week before asking me to lunch, and (Sigh) there’s this thing called Etiquette that sometimes I like to flirt with when I’m feeling particularly frisky. And Etiquette told me that I couldn’t get away with pretending to have red the book. So, quite grudgingly (my flatmate can confirm this), I picked up the book and started reading.

And—excuse the bad humor—Thank God that I did! The moment I finished Amen, L.A., I added it to my modestly sized favorites shelf on Goodreads. I.Absolutely.Love.Nat. I Tom-Cruise-style, couch jumping, crazy loved living in her head. I’m sorry to say that I don’t have a couch on hand (just a roll-y chair), so I’m going to refrain from the jumping and stick to the typing.

There are a lot of authentic YA protagonists out there, but Nat went beyond that for me. By the time I had finished the book I really felt like I knew her, like we were good friends. She, her family, her friends, and her struggles had settled firmly into my heart. A lot of contemporary authors try to straddle the line between values and opulence, but end up falling too far to a certain side and getting preachy. I admired Nat for being grounded, but also being accepting and open; I admired the authors for writing a family that is super-close, but still felt genuine, and as a reader originally from L.A., I was glad to be back.

Amen, L.A. definitely succeeded at being juicy, thoughtful, and believable. I can imagine that Nat’s do-gooder attitude will grate on some readers, especially those who have problems with religious fiction. (Being the non-celebrity incarnation of Alex in high school, I too, physically cringed at some of Nat’s more clueless choices… but who of us wasn’t kind of clueless in high school?) This book is a hard sell, not quite fluffy enough for a beach read, a little too light and quick to fit with other Contemporary YA, so I can understand why it doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of attention. But for those of you who are reading this: please take my advice! Take a couple of hours, and curl up with this book. If you liked it anywhere near as much as I did--which is 5 out of 5 Stars--you will be equally as devastated that the sequel doesn’t seem to be coming out until Fall 2012.

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