Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review - The Faith and Fate of David Ghent by Maren Dille (2/5)

By Jessica Veter

The Faith and Fate of David Ghent starts promisingly. Layla is running to save David from making a horrible mistake. It is the eleventh hour, and she has new knowledge which says if David is not stopped he will lose his life and destroy the world.

Workshop instructors say: begin in the middle of the story, but Maren Dille is audacious enough to start at what seems to be the end.

In spite of the action-packed beginning, The Faith and Fate of David Ghent is not an action novel. In the beginning, David is a surly, angry, self-defeating young man with a chip on his shoulder the size of a small country. Who can blame him? David’s divine purpose is to jump-start the Apocalypse. Most young men his age have enough on their hands trying to get through university. Consequently, David hates everyone, especially Layla, a daughter of angels (literally), whom he must protect at all costs. The novel follows David as he turns from that angry young man into someone who can take on the legions of Hell with some hope of winning.

I give Maren Dille full points for taking the time to allow her protagonist real time to change. David’s transformation is believable; he is truly unlikeable at the beginning of the novel but the reader does grudgingly start to cheer for him as his personality reveals itself to be conflicted and complex. Given that Maren is capable of creating these kinds of characters, I found it sad that the same care and attention was not given to Layla. She starts out with a bang, but as soon as possible she’s relegated to the role of ‘damsel in distress’. What a disappointment.

Disappointing also was the lack of tension in the novel. David is being sent up against Lucifer – arguably the baddest baddy of them all – but there is no sense of the enormity of that task. The token demons and beasties that appear are easily defeated and forgotten. There is never that breathlessness that makes a reader stay up until 3am when the alarm is set for 6:30.

For a YA novel some of the themes are downright disturbing. As punishment, Heaven forces David to feel love for Layla. I’ll give Layla credit that she’s unhappy about the situation, but there is never any real discussion of the morals or ethics of what is done to David. And, as David’s transformation comes about because of this imposed emotion, it raises the question of its authenticity. If Lucifer took Heaven to court over the end result of the Apocalypse, evidence like this would force the court to rule in the Fallen’s favor.

Maren Dille
More troubling, however, was the representation of women. This goes beyond the ‘weak woman’ complaint I’ve soapboxed about in the past. David’s ex is a hellion (a daughter of Cursed souls), who has been damned, as far as I can tell, because she and David have been having sex. Putting aside the fact that David and Marianna are consenting adults, are we really still telling young women that their natural sexual desires are sinful? Guess what Marianna does to redeem her sinful ways? She sacrifices herself for David.

You’ve got it girls, the first one to have sex dies.

Come to think of it, these are disturbing themes in any novel, but I would argue that when writing for young people, authors need to set the bar extraordinarily high and then surpass it.

Looks like my star-metre is stuck on two; I tried hitting it once or twice, but it’s not budging. One star for planning, one star for David’s character, but I’m keeping the rest and turning them into a constellation for Marianna and all our sisters in fiction.

About the Author:  Maren Dille lives in Spanish, Fork, Utah with her family where she works as a mom, piano teacher, and writer. You can find more information about her at www.marendille.com.
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About the ReviewerJessica Veter is a novelist raised in rural Ontario. Having escaped to Toronto, she spent the 90’s over-educating herself at York University and then the University of Toronto. Once she accepted that there were never going to be any job listings in The Globe and Mail headed “Medievalist Wanted”, Jessica went to Japan. There, she met her husband and they lived in England before returning to Canada with a son and a greyhound.  Now in rural Flamborough, Jessica and her husband raise 3 boys, 6 chickens and are owned by 1 dog. You are welcome to visit her at www.jessicaveter.com.

20 comments:

  1. That's a shame it disappointed. Those do sound like disturbing themes for being a YA book.

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    1. I actually thought the themes were appropriate, but I was disturbed by the way they were treated. It's fine to encourage young people to think carefully before engaging in sexual activity, but I hate the way women, especially, are so casually condemned for deciding to say 'yes'. And in this book, the young lady is literally condemned for doing nothing more than seeking love and acceptance in the only way she knows how.

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