4 out of 4 stars
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Alden is a young man with some anger issues. He hasn't had an easy life, but one day he goes too far; he assaults his grandmother who is raising him. He's convinced she won't call the police, but he's wrong. Alden suddenly finds himself on probation. His probation officer, Philip Bones, lets Alden know exactly what he needs to do to avoid juvenile detention. More than that, though, Philip sees something special in Alden, and he determines to take him under his wing. Will Mr. Bones be able to turn this young man around?
Rebuilding Alden by JR Thompson is book one in the Worthy Battle series. This Christian fiction book is a relatively short, easy read with around 180 pages. Themes covered include forgiveness, second chances, and not letting your anger control you.
The story is told from the third person point of view, which is mostly successful; however, there were a couple of occasions when it seemed like the narrator made an aside to the audience. This was a rare occurrence, but it was somewhat out of place. Despite this, I enjoyed this perspective, as it helped move the story along to know what the characters were each thinking and feeling.
One of the strengths of this book is its characters. Oftentimes in Christian fiction, there are characters that are unrealistically perfect. I've even seen times where absolutely everything falls into place for everyone, simply because they are Christian. That doesn't occur in real life and, furthermore, sends the wrong message. This book is different; all of the characters struggle and, in turn, show they are human. It was refreshing, and I was able to learn along with the characters.
The biggest pitfall of the book is that it is still overly simplistic, at least at times. While there are difficulties, some of the ways these are overcome are questionable. It wasn't so infeasible that I got disgusted and walked away. It was simply enough that I thought to myself, "Would it really have been that easy?"
As the first book in a series, there is always the question of the ending. Is there a cliffhanger ending? The ending will drive you to the next book; I want to know more about the main characters' lives. Could you stop at this book? Probably, but I'm not sure you'd be wholly satisfied. Let's put it this way: the author doesn't use an incomplete ending simply to get you to buy the next book. She has a story to tell, and it's one that's going to be told using multiple different people, in multiple separate novels.
In conclusion, I'd rate Rebuilding Alden 4 out of 4 stars. It was enjoyable enough that I'd seek out the next book in the series, and the few flaws I found didn't warrant subtracting a star. I recommend it to those that enjoy a lighter, easy-to-read Christian fiction, but if you aren't religious, it would probably be a turn-off.
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