Book Review: The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (5 stars, 2015)
Tyndale House Publishers
Released May 19, 2015
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Official Backpage Synopsis:They told her being Chosen was all that mattered. That it would secure her future. Her worth. That not being Chosen would yield a cruel fate.
Like all citizens since the Ruining, Carrington Hale knows the importance of this day. But she never expected the moment she's spent a lifetime preparing for - the Choosing Ceremony - to end in disaster. Ripped from her family, she'll spend her days serving as a Lint, the lowest level of society, because she knows it's her duty to follow the way of the Authority.
As Carrington begins this nightmare, rumors of rebellion rattle her beliefs. Though the whispers contradict everything she's been told, they resonate deep within.
Then Carrington is offered an unprecedented chance at the life she's always dreamed of. It's an opportunity to be chosen at last, but she can't shake the feeling that it may be an illusion. Does the Authority truly know what's best for society? And how can it let a killer run free while Lints are dying? Carrington must uncover the truth before it destroys her.
My Personal Thoughts:Am I allowed to scream with joy that a Christian author has finally written teen dystopian fiction? Well, too bad, because I'm screaming anyway! I'm a dystopian lover by nature. When I took my creative writing courses, one of the stories I wrote was dystopian. One of my favorite book is Fahrenheit 451 and I am a HUGE Hunger Games fan . . . like, before the books were being made into movies, I loved them. So I always felt the void, the lack if you will, of dystopian fiction for Christian teens. Because let's admit it, many Christian parents are not comfortable letting their teens read secular fiction. That's fine. But there needs to be something for them to point their teens towards since dystopian fiction is so popular right now. That gap in Christian fiction needs to be filled, especially if we're talking teen fiction, and I'm glad to see Rachelle Dekker taking a stab at it out right out of the chute. And yes, she is indeed Ted Dekker's oldest daughter, but I'm sure most of you guessed that already.
I refuse to lower my rating for this book, but I am going to mention something. To be honest, I did feel the story could have been slightly more. I'm watching A.D. The Bible Continues on Sunday nights with my family (which everyone needs to watch because it's AMAZING), and when I first started reading The Choosing, I was thinking it might run parallel with the idea of the early Christian church and the conflict between the early Christians and the Jewish community, particularly between Saul and Peter. In other words, I was hoping for an unforeseen redemption for one of the characters. That didn't happen. Oh well. I'm not actually disappointed per se. Ms. Dekker had plenty of incredible ideas that she brought to fruition within this book's pages. So just because my vision and hope didn't actually happen doesn't mean her book isn't excellent, because it is. And because The Choosing is her first book, I am only remarking upon this as a mention rather than a judgement.
As for the characters and the plot, yes, I can see where Ms. Dekker was inspired by many other dystopian novels that have already been published. She drew on them for some inspiration, but that's okay because there is really no such thing as an original idea and every dystopian book inevitably draws from Fahrenheit 451. It's normal and to be expected. However, with that being said, Ms. Dekker's notion of the Choosing Ceremony and having a Legalistic Religious sect rise to power after near total annihilation of the human race was more unique than most. Like I said, it felt like I had fallen into the times of the unforgiving Sanhedrin and the Pharisees with their harsh judgements and calculating superiority. I like that aspect of Ms. Dekker's imaginary world very much.
What I did struggle with was the complete and total lack of worth given to women. We've come so far as a society to give worth and value to women that the idea we could simply slide back into that type of oppression troubles me. But then it's still hard for me to imagine that I live in a world where countless unborn are slaughtered every single day because of a woman's freedom of choice. So, yes, if we can reach this level of depravity regarding abortion, then we could very easily slip back into a legalistic society of women being dominated.
Carrington Hale is a very gentle spirit, content to go along to get along, until her destiny diverges from the path she was raised to expect, that of her Choosing Ceremony, and then marriage and children. It is her sole purpose in life, so when that doesn't happen, a new purpose must be found. Her second chance at happiness comes in an unprecedented way, but suddenly she's forced to consider that maybe she doesn't want this life after all. Why can't she have more? Why should have entire identity be determined over when a man chooses her as a mate or not? Isn't she worth something, anything, apart from doing her duty as a wife and mother? These are the questions that Ms. Dekker raises in The Choosing and they're an excellent reminder that everyone has worth. Everyone has value. And that everyone is loved unconditionally by a Father.
If you love dystopian literature, please give The Choosing a try. It doesn't have to be The Hunger Games or Divergent or The Maze Runner nor should it be. The message within these pages is one of hope and worth and value. It's not a story of revenge and hate, but of love and forgiveness and redemption. I can only see positive thoughts come out of this book. Teenagers and young people are searching for value in a world that acts as though it has no place for them. Jobs grow scarce, education is expensive, and that bright future is a scary place. Why not offer them the belief and the conviction that no matter what happens or how many twists their life might take, that they are valued by God the Father? It's a beautiful and enduring sentiment, yet somehow, it gets lost in the day to day struggles, and we forget. I pray that The Choosing teaches you to remember how very much you are loved.
Q&A with Rachelle Dekker by Tyndale House
Do you think women tend to struggle with identity more than men?
I don’t think women struggle with identity more then men. Not at all. I just think we struggle differently. As a woman I understand the identity struggle from a female perspective more, but I think most men wonder if they’re enough just as much as women do. We are all the same at our core,really. We are on this earth for a short time, trying to figure out our purpose and worth. Searching for recognition, usually in all the wrong places. The truth I am discovering is that there is no need for searching. The truth already resides inside of us. The Father has already marked us as chosen, worth it; He has already given us a purpose. It’s only a matter of looking inward to the soul and to the Creator of that soul to find our worth.
One of the story’s most significant lines is, “Life is a journey of remembering and forgetting.” What do you mean by this?
It means exactly what you probably think. We have these flashes of clarity where we see so clearly who we are — and our connection to the Father — but then, in a single moment, something pulls our attention away and we forget who we are. This is the journey of life, remembering and forgetting. But I believe the more we remember, the more we set our gaze on the Father, the less often we forget.
What is it like being Ted Dekker’s daughter? Did your father help you with the writing process?
Being Ted’s daughter is wonderful! He’s the best, but then I hope many daughters feel that way about their fathers. He is a bit of a mystery, though. Sometimes, even sitting at the dinner table, I can tell he’s lost in thought, and I wonder what it might be like to have his mind.
It’s been a blessing to watch him write and struggle with writing, so that now when I struggle I have an understanding ear to talk off. He is always willing to talk me through the emotional and mental side of writing (which is where the biggest battles lie in wait) but as far as story, for the most part he lets me fend for myself. It’s always been important to me to write through my challenges on my own. To figure out scenes alone. In fact, he didn’t even read The Choosing until I was already in conversations with Tyndale about publication. I think that’s because he wanted me to believe I could do it on my own.
But when I doubt my ability as a writer, and when I forget who I am, he is the one I call. And he reminds me that life is a journey of remembering and forgetting, and helps me in remembering once again.
NOTE: Thanks to Tyndale for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review and I'm excited to be an oh, so small part of Ms. Dekker's book release!