A young adult perspective on this month’s CSFF Blog Tour novel:
Marissa Shrock‘s The First Principle wasn’t exactly what I expected. For one thing, It read like a spy thriller rather than like other books I’ve read in the same genre, which was refreshing since Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi is a pretty narrow genre.
There aren’t many pauses in the action – but that’s once you get to the action. The suspenseful moments are almost stressfully so, but the story gets off to a bit of a slow start, since Vivica doesn’t gain a big, personal conflict that the reader cares about until a couple of chapters in when she discovers her pregnancy. Even then, there’s still more pages to traverse before the suspense actually sets in.
The story itself deals with issues that are very real in the world today and that many people don’t want to talk about. In fact, this is the first story I’ve read that actually handles the issues of abortion and teen pregnancy with more than a passing mention. Not only that, but neither of those issues is glossed-over or given a prepackaged answer; rather, Vivica’s situation is discussed fully and with a lot of questions and struggles, and the Biblical response is presented in a good way. Also, the story isn’t kept “clean” and “safe” for the sake of not offending anyone; rather, it is allowed to handle realistic scenarios realistically.
The conversion scene in this book is also well-handled. When a character does finally accept Christ as Savior, there is no big to-do. Problems don’t all magically get better. Consequences are still consequences and the world is still an uncomfortable place. There are no rose-colored glasses involved, just inner peace and grace that the character sometimes has to struggle to accept.
I also like that not everything ends happily or easily, yet enough of it does end well enough that the reader can be satisfied, and that forgiveness is a big theme, yet so are consequences and responsibility.
I have one major complaint, that being that the title of The First Principle is never actually explained or even referenced in the book anywhere that I can find. What is the first principle exactly?
Overall, though, this is the best Christian-young-adult-dystopian-sci-fi that I’ve read so far, and while I’ve begun to tire of dystopias in general, I am looking forward to any sequels that may follow The First Principle.
Here is where I digress from the book a bit and talk about the genre: as I’ve said above, it’s a very narrow genre, and the seemingly-endless flood of dystopias on all fronts is especially beginning to grate.
Therefore, I would like to issue a note to authors in which I remind them that variety of concept is a good thing (you don’t just have to write whatever’s selling right now) and refer them to Amish Vampires in Space for an example of a story with a serious tone and message but also a mild dose of humor – mainly due to the creative blending of genres – and a noticeable lack of everything-going-to-pot-in-the-government.
I’m not saying everybody needs to start writing books like that one; just that it’s time to do something creatively different genre-wise from what’s being done right now.
~Jamie, age 17
For other perspectives on the novel:
Thomas Clayton Booher
Meagan @ Blooming with Books
Megan @ Hardcover Feedback
Rebecca LuElla Miller
Rebecca LuElla Miller
September 23, 2015 at 8:58 pm
Good review, Jamie. I think it’s especially important to hear your perspective since you’re right in the sweet spot when it comes to target audience for this book. I understand what you’re saying about genre, too. In all fairness, The First Principle has been out for nine months now, so it undoubtedly was conceived, contracted, and scheduled for publication before dystopian weariness hit readers.
Oh, I’m glad you brought up the title. I wondered that myself. Could be protecting the unborn is the first principle, or trusting Christ is the first principle. I didn’t see a clear connection with the content but thought maybe I missed the reference.
September 23, 2015 at 10:52 pm
Thank you! I’m happy my review is appreciated.
I accept that sometimes good stories have bad timing in terms of when they’re published, and I hope [insert genre here]-weariness doesn’t blind readers to a good book.
I’m also glad I’m not the only one who was curious about the title (aside from Keanan). It seems like saving life would be the principle in question, but I only got that guess from the back cover blurb, where it says “inalienable rights begin with life itself” — if there was a reference in the story for you to miss, we both missed it too.
Rebecca LuElla Miller
September 24, 2015 at 12:09 pm
Ok, I thought the title referred to life when I first thought about it, but didn’t know why I should assume that. The back cover line escaped me, or maybe lodged in my subconscious. 😉 And yes, I’m with you. Good books ought not be missed because people have been saturated by a particular genre. In a perfect world, they wouldn’t be. 😀
September 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm
Excellent review! So glad your uncle shared you with us. I had a problem with the title as well. I thought at first it had to do with the First Amendment or perhaps “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — the inalienable rights referred to on the back cover. The title is not very “catchy”, but the cover art is good, so it may attract the eye of perspective readers. Thanks again for your thoughts.