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Saving Maddie by Varian Johnson

Saving Maddie

by Varian Johnson

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Joshua is the son of a preacher and is coming to find people’s expectations of him a burden. When his former best friend, Maddie, returns to town he is warned that she is ‘trouble’ and that he shouldn’t have anything to do with her but sexy looks and memories of their former friendship mean that Joshua can’t stay away.
This book is a realistic look at a teenage boy’s struggle to find who he is and what he believes. ( )
  RefPenny | Nov 18, 2011 |
Maddie and Joshua were best friends. They understood each other, they were both PK - Preacher's Kids. But then one day Maddie's family moves and they grow apart. Five years later she returns, but she is not the same person. Maddie, now Madeline, has left the church and has quite a reputation as a bad girl. Joshua is determined to bring her back into the church, but finds that Madeline is opening his eyes and make him think about his beliefs.

The story revolves around Josh trying to figure out what happened to Madeline in the five years she was gone that could change her so much. She hates her father and the church, but she won't say why. As Josh tries to get Madeline to open up to him, he finds her opening his mind. Forcing him to think about his beliefs instead of blindly doing what he has been taught his whole life. The two grow close and each of them learns so much more about themselves in the process.

4/5 ( )
1 vote jasmyn9 | Apr 10, 2011 |
Joshua Wynn has grown up being an example for other kids: The Wynn Boy. He doesn't seem to mind too much, except that he had to give up on his school's basketball team to lead the youth group and that everyone his age thinks he's some kind of prude. But even these things don't dampen his spirits, and he works very hard to keep his reputation. He has to; he's "Joshua Wynn, the preacher's son. ... a shining example of what [is] good and righteous and wholesome in the world" (28). More like some kind of super-hero than a real person, don't you think? It's not until Maddie comes back into his life that Joshua starts to object to the perceptions that other people have of him and the pressure that he is under, from his parents and the community, to do and be good. And no, he never liked that he gets left out of things because he's such a goodie-two-shoes, that he's the guy other kids hide their beer from at parties, but until Maddie comes along, it's as though he didn't know he could be any different. She opens up a world for him where he is not an extension of his father and his father's work.

Now, I've never been a PK, but I was raised by one, and I was definitely a goodie-two-shoes in high school who had more friends at youth group than at school. I think that Johnson has absolutely nailed that experience, or at least mirrored mine. The feelings and internal conflicts that Joshua goes through felt so authentic. His struggle to reconcile what he wants to do with what he's supposed to do with what everyone else is doing was ongoing. The lectures from his parents ("I'm not mad, I'm disappointed." -- the worst!) and the advice from his friends to just go for it (the BIG it, no less), were so familiar. And then there's Maddie, who seems so much more grown-up, experienced, and figured out than Joshua. Of course he falls for her! There is definitely attraction involved, but Joshua also gets one of those I-want-to-be-you crushes on her.

Saving Maddie is told from Joshua's perspective, so we don't get to see the inner workings of Maddie's head. Through her talks with Joshua, however, she becomes a fully realized and complex character. Something that makes up a large part of Maddie, and everyone else's problem with her, is that she is no longer religious. BUT she still has her faith. This disconnect between faith and religion is something that a lot of teens struggle with, not just PKs. Without going into great detail or getting bogged down in theology, Johnson makes Maddie an example of what it can mean to believe in God without participating in a specific religious tradition. She still considers herself spiritual and a Christian, but she doesn't go to church. Joshua sees her spirituality acted out in her life, rather than her Sunday attendance. It's a less obvious way of teaching-by-example than the kind of life he has been living, and while he may not change to be non-religious like Maddie, he definitely learns from her. Seeing how she acts out her faith in what she does rather than what she doesn't do gives him more choices for how he can show his. And he finally does that by sticking up for Maddie.

I could go on and on about Saving Maddie; there are at least half a dozen more quotes left in my notes. Johnson has done something wonderful here. He's managed to capture the PK experience, and the growing-up-at-church experience, so well! And he's managed to do it in a way that, I think, will be attractive and relevant to readers who've grown up without these experiences as well.

Book source: Philly Free Library ( )
1 vote lawral | Jul 1, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385738048, Hardcover)

Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing. Until Maddie comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, cusses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.

As time goes on, Josh goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Josh further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:29 -0400)

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"Joshua Wynn is definitely what you would call a good guy. He's a preacher's son who chooses abstinence and religious retreats over crazy nights and wild parties...One Sunday, Joshua's mind drifts from his father's sermon to a beautiful girl in the fifth row. She's gorgeous, wearing a dress cut down to there, and she looks like the little girl he crushed on as a kid. It turns out that Maddie Smith is back in town, but instead of throwing her a welcome-back picnic, the community condemns her for her provocative clothes and the rumors about her past...But can Joshua save Maddie without losing himself?"--p.[4] of cover.… (more)

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