Saturday, October 20, 2012

Review: Reckless Heart by Amy Clipston


Reckless Heart
by Amy Clipston

Available as: paperback, Kindle edition, ebook
Pages: 271
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: April 17, 2012
Suggested tags: young adult, Christian fiction, Amish



From Goodreads:
"Slipping. Lydia Bontrager's youngest sister is frighteningly ill, and as a good Amish daughter, it falls to Lydia to care for her siblings and keep the household running, in addition to working as a teacher's assistant and helping part time at her grandmother's bakery. Succumbing to stress, Lydia gives in to one wild night and returns home drunk. The secret of that mistake leaves Lydia feeling even more restless and confused, especially when Joshua, the only boy she's ever loved, becomes increasingly distant. When a non-Amish boy moves in nearby, Lydia finds someone who understands her, but the community is convinced Lydia is becoming too reckless. With the pressures at home and her sister's worsening condition, a splintering relationship with Joshua, and her own growing questions over what is right, Lydia could lose everything that she's ever held close."

{ I received an ebook for free from NetGalley. }


I'm pretty sure by this point it's no secret that I have a fascination with Amish culture. So when I learned of Reckless Heart, I knew I had to give it a read. The synopsis sounded strong, so I was expecting an equally strong story, something full of emotion where you could really feel Lydia's struggles as if they were your own. Unfortunately, for me, Reckless Heart just did not deliver.

My real issue with Reckless Heart is that it features a teenage girl dealing with teenage issues, but the writing comes across a little too juvenile for YA readers. The narration is distant and a little simplistic, and the dialogue is stilted and repetitive. Where a line to the effect of "the characters greeted each other" would have been just fine, Clipston fully wrote out each character's stated greeting to each other. If a character came into a scene late and missed what was said a few moments ago, the other characters went through almost their entire conversation again. I ended up skimming dialogue to get past the parts I had already read once.

There was a dictionary of sorts at the beginning of the book with Pennsylvania Dutch words and their meanings. I was excited when I first saw that - I imagined it would really add to the narration, that it would make things seem more realistic and would be a nice little insight into the culture. But unfortunately, it wasn't used very effectively. Some words are used so often you just want to roll your eyes when you see them pop up again. Other words aren't given many context clues in the sentence; you can't figure out what the characters are talking about, so then you have to flip back to the front of the book and find the meaning there before you can go on.

Lydia is indeed dealing with a lot all at once - her little sister Ruthie has cancer, she's taken on a lot of responsibilities for the family while her parents are busy at the hospital with Ruthie, the Amish community frowns upon her friendship with the English boy next door, she has to decide whether to work at her family's bakery or become the school's teacher, and she's afraid her night of drinking is going to be found out. But the story just never connects with Lydia's emotions. We're not really given any heavy thoughts from Lydia, no real insight into her feelings as she struggles through everything. We get a lot of repetitive thoughts - it's not fair, everything's so stressful, there are a lot of decisions to be made - but the whole time I just felt like I was being told how Lydia was feeling. I never really felt connected to Lydia at all.

Clearly there are a lot of issues to resolve, and they do get wrapped up neatly one by one. But the resolution of the drinking issue really irked me. The very first scene in the book is Lydia coming back from drinking with the community's resident bad boy, Mahlon, and his friends. Throughout the rest of the book, the guilt from this moment of weakness hangs over her head. She's afraid she might be found out, which would mean she'd be in major trouble. She's afraid it's going to cost her a chance at the teaching position. She's afraid it's going to turn Joshua, the boy she hopes to marry, against her. All very big, scary possibilities. So you know it's going to be a big moment when it's finally dealt with. But...it wasn't. The resolution of this overhanging issue was a pretty big let down. (SPOILER - highlight to read: Lydia decides she has to confess, since she wants to be a teacher and wants to set a good example. So she tells her father. Whenever she showed even the slightest disobedience through the rest of the book, her father lashed out and angrily reminded her of what was expected of a good Amish girl. But now, when Lydia confesses that she has truly acted scandalously, her father takes it in stride. Doesn't even raise his voice. ... I'm sorry, what? It didn't make sense to me. It just didn't seem in character at all.)

Reckless Heart is an easy read that would most likely appeal to younger YA readers. The story did cover some interesting aspects of Amish culture, but overall I thought it just wasn't as strong as it could have been.


Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars

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