Today I'll review Mexico - the third book in Melody Carlson's young adult fiction series Notes from a Spinning Planet. The books are self-contained stories and need not be read in order, however the adventures start in Ireland, continue in New Guinea, and arrive in Cabo San Lucas for this latest installment.
Through the eyes of 19-year-old Maddie Chase, with Aunt Sid - her friend and confidant - by her side, the readers will learn about the world, different cultures, and themselves. The target audience for these reads are women in their teens (or anyone who enjoys quality YA fiction). They explore such themes as love and friendship, peer pressure and relationships, as well as drugs and alcohol, sexual temptation, and other timely and culturally relevant topics.
In "Notes from a Spinning Planet - Mexico" (available to the public August 21, 2007 from WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House) Maddie is now twenty and is celebrating Christmas break with some friends in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a paradise at the tip of the Baja California peninsula. This first-person travelogue/diary adventure works pretty well to cover some relational and moral issues (without being heavy handed) by interspersing a bit of conflict, romance and mystery into this vacation story. It's a nice, fast-paced read, great for wrapping up the Summer at the beach or pool.
Although a book with Christian themes - we see Maddie struggling to incorporate her faith and prayer into her life - it can appeal to a broader audience. In fact, this is one of the tensions that religious authors face: balancing real world issues within a Christian context all the while remaining sensitive to the mostly SAHM (stay at home mom) readers. So if I were to voice a criticism, it might be along these lines.
Okay, here it goes. First, I like the author's writing style (first person, present tense is different enough from the norm that it keeps you engaged) and I appreciate Carlson's efforts to bring timely issues to the fore. In this book, however, alcohol and how to handle it is a running theme. And since Maddie our protagonist is only 20, when she's seen with a drink in hand it seems the author is condoning underage drinking (albeit in Mexico where the age limit is lower, I assume). Now another character is on the verge of teenage alcoholism and Maddie and her friend seek to help her and "intervene" - well, that's good. But it seems the overall message is "just be careful not to get drunk." And that makes for a hollow solution to this pervasive problem of underage drinking.
Don't want to leave a review on a downer, so a second, more prominent theme running through the book is self-sacrifice. Carlson handles this well which even prompts a bit of mystery, which helps the story's pace and overall quality. Recommended, with a caution: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Another Review at Beth's And Then I Woke Up...
(also read her thoughts in the comment section regarding alcohol)
Another Review at Laura Williams' Musings.
(Laura has a similar concern as me)
Another Review at Our Seven Qtpies.
(for yet another perspective on the issue)