Sunday, September 7, 2014

"Searching for Grace" by Juliann Rich

Searching for Grace
(The Crossfire Trilogy Book 2)
by Juliann Rich

Searching for Grace is the second book in The Crossfire Trilogy. Also available: Caught in the Crossfire (read my blog post). Coming soon: Taking the Stand.

Searching for Grace is currently on tour with Reading Addiction Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

First it’s a rumor. Then it’s a fact. And then it’s on.
Camp is over and Jonathan Cooper returns home. To life with his mother whose silence is worse than anything she could say … to his varsity soccer teammates at East Bay Christian Academy … to the growing rumors about what he did with a boy last summer at bible camp.
All the important lines blur. Between truth and lies. Between friends and enemies. Between reality and illusion.
Just when Jonathan feels the most alone, help arrives from the unlikeliest of sources: Frances "Sketch" Mallory, the weird girl from his art class, and her equally eccentric friend, Mason. For a short while, thanks to Sketch and Mason, life is almost survivable. Then Ian McGuire comes to town on the night of the homecoming dance and tensions explode. Fists fly, blood flows, and Jonathan - powerless to stop it - does the only thing he believes might save them all: he prays for God’s grace.

Book Video

I wandered away, scanning tables, until I reached the middle of the cafeteria and stood there, holding a tray with a plate full of gross.
“Yo, Jonathan,” a familiar voice called my name, “are you going to stand there drooling over a bunch of butt cracks or are you going to sit down and eat?”
I walked over to the small table in the corner and sat next to Sketch and Mason.
“You okay?” She looked at my face. “You look like you’re going to hurl.”
“I’m just saying, if you’re going to hurl, I’d appreciate some warning.” Sketch slid a few inches to the left.
“I’m fine!” I turned to Mason and changed the subject. “Thanks for bailing me out in American lit. What are you, like a genius or something?”
Sketch stuck a finger in her mouth and made a gagging sound.
“Now he notices me in a class.” Mason sprinkled Parmesan cheese on his lasagna, a slight smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Is it because you’re finally out?”
“W-what?” I stammered. “I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“Well, I do,” Sketch said. “Word has it Luke, the new transfer kid from Minnetonka Public, knows for a fact you had all sorts of raging gay sex with a guy at soccer camp last summer. Says he has proof.”
I wanted to scream. I wanted to throw my tray across the cafeteria. I almost hurled.
“I heard it was two guys and it was full on anal wham-bam-thank-you-sir.” Mason butchered more than a stupid rhyme. “I also heard you caught some STD.”
I gripped my fork and counted to ten. “It was a Bible camp, and sure, I hung around with a guy named Ian, but we did not have raging gay sex, and I most certainly do not have a STD!”
“That’s not what I heard.” Mason lifted his box of chocolate milk to his lips.
“Well, I was there and I should know!” My voice rose a few decibels. Heads turned. I mean, more heads turned. Actually, the few heads that weren’t already staring at me, turned. “He was my friend. That’s all!”
“Chill, gentlemen. The important thing right now is that Jonathan is about as popular as a case of herpes.” Sketch pointed out the obvious. “Whether he has it or not is immaterial.”
“It’s not true!” I hissed.
Mason snorted. “Okay, Jonathan. Whatever you say.” He took another sip.
I willed him to choke on his chocolate milk. Really I did. For one malicious moment, I saw it spewing out of his nostrils like a Hershey’s geyser. It didn’t happen, but it felt good to picture it.
Sketch erupted, “Knock it off, Mason. He’s one of us now.”
He’s one of us? Mr. we were just friends, I swear?
Something thudded under the table, and Mason frowned at Sketch. “Quit kicking me!”
“Have you forgotten two years ago? When you went around telling everyone I was your girlfriend?” She threw a tomato slice at Mason. It hit him in the chest, leaving a red stain and a few seeds on his shirt when it dropped to the table. 
 “Wait, so you’re not…” I looked at Mason.
“Going to sit here while this stain sets in.” He stood and shot a lethal glance at Sketch.
“And you’re…?” I asked Sketch after Mason headed toward the boys’ bathroom.
“Does it matter?” She frowned. “Listen, Mason and I have been trying to form a Gay-Straight Alliance for two years, but school policy states a club must have a minimum of three charter members to form, and you know how much Hardin loves his school policies. What do you say…will you be our third?”
Somehow it didn’t seem advisable to tell the only person willing to sit with me at lunch, especially since she was prone to throwing food, that I would rather contract a case of herpes.

Praise for the Book
"This is the story of a person finding the strength, courage and bravery to not let the naysayers bring him down. This is a story that everyone needs to read. It really opens one’s eyes to the hate that is being flung at people for choosing to love a person of the same gender. Sexual orientation does not define a person, a person is defined by their actions and reactions." ~ Word to Dreams
"This is the type of story that makes you think. It shows you how it is from the inside when those around you are against you and you’re trying to figure things out without breaking down or giving in to the pressures around you. Jonathan still has a ways to go and I’ll be keeping a sharp lookout for the next installment in this series, to seeing where his journey takes him." ~ Book Junky Girls
"It felt like it would feel if this went down in a small town – the people talking behind backs, the rumors, the feeling that everyone is talking about you and that was just the beginning." ~ Dee’s Book Blog

Some of My Favorite Lines
"I found myself the day I found Ian."
"Paranoia is when you think everyone is talking about you and they're not. Hell is when you think everyone is talking about you and they are."
"I nodded, picked up my camera, and flicked through the various settings, wondering what speed and aperture would make my world come back into focus. For once, my Nikon failed me."
"The leaves on the trees that lined the streets looked like Sketch had attacked them with her paintbrush, a beautiful mosaic of gold and crimson filtering the light."
"You've got to take control of your life! I brought you here so you could see this picture and know that it's okay to be yourself, wear your crown, hold your head high and be proud!"
"They aren't your friends. You just think they are."
"I rested my head on hers and hoped I was done dripping. Friends deserved better treatment than to have snot land on them. Especially real friends."
"I wanted to tell her, but it seemed that I'd swallowed the words for so long that I couldn't speak them so I said nothing and headed for the front door."
"All the best teaching about life can be found in science fiction."
"Nothing is happening to me, Mom. Why can't you see this is just who I am?"

My Review
Jonathan returns to East Bay Christian Academy after his summer at Spirit Lake Bible Camp, where he met Ian and came out as gay. Still not prepared to let anyone else know, Jonathan wonders what he will do if his friends find out what happened at camp. When new student Luke starts dropping veiled comments and Jonathan is finally outed in a very public way, he finds out who his real friends are. But Jonathan reaches breaking point when his mother still refuses to accept him and continues trying to "fix" him. And then his boyfriend Ian shows up. As Jonathan lies in a hospital bed trying to recall the events leading up to his current situation, he is consoled by Grace. But who is Grace? What happened to make Jonathan end up in hospital? And what will it take for his family to finally accept him for who he is?
I enjoyed this book much more than Caught in the Crossfire. The story is very cleverly constructed so as not to reveal too much at once, and we have to piece together what happened to Jonathan. Full of sarcastic humor, the author captures the tone of Jonathan, Sketch, and Mason perfectly. Searching for Grace contains a number of parallels with The Scarlet Letter, which Jonathan and his fellow students are studying in their American literature class; this adds an extra dimension to the story. Once again, the writing is very good and the editing near-flawless. I eagerly anticipate the final volume of this trilogy.

About the Author
Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller the better! Perched on a branch ten to thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds and squirrels was a good place for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.
Juliann is a PFLAG mom who can be found walking Pride parades with her son. She is also the daughter of evangelical Christian parents. As such she has been caught in the crossfire of the most heated topic to challenge our society and our churches today. She is committed to writing stories that shed light on the conflicts that arise when sexual orientation, spirituality, family dynamics and peer relationships collide.
Juliann recently won the Emerging Writer Award at The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival in New Orleans.
Juliann lives with her husband and their two chronically disobedient dachshunds in the beautiful Minnesota River Valley.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

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