I don’t typically read contemporary fiction, and it’s not something I write, either. I like it well enough, but the pull of fantasy is stronger on me and usually wins out.
I’m so glad I made an exception. Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett is one of the best books I’ve read in the last several months, and certainly one of the best contemporary novels.
Here’s the synopsis (not written by me):
What if friendship cost you everything?
Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.
But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home.
And time is running out.
One of the things I liked most about this book is that it is Christian contemporary fiction in which the main character is not a goody-two-shoes. Olive doesn’t have her faith all figured out. She’s not perfect, and she isn’t presented like she is. For that matter, even Brander, Jazz, and Olive’s grandmother aren’t perfect, either. They don’t have all the answers. One mistake that a lot of authors of Christian contemporary fiction make is portraying the Christian characters as having a super close relationship with God and having everything figured out for their non-believer or doubting Christian friends. The problem is that that type of story is just not realistic. Porch Swing Girl portrays Christianity in a very real way that is extremely refreshing. The raw honesty actually helps readers connect to Olive in a deeper way than most Christian books would allow.
As far as the plot of Porch Swing Girl goes, it was mostly good, except for a few small points. I’m not going to say that God never works things out for His children, but the ending (which I will not give away) in regard to the way money works out seems just a little bit too perfect for me to think it very probable.
I absolutely loved all the characters: Olive, Brander, Jazz, Grandma, and Macie. I think the main ones were all developed well, and I really look forward to seeing where they end up in future books in the series (especially Macie: she’s so awesomely lovable!).
There is one other aspect of Porch Swing Girl that I really like. ***MINOR SPOILER ALERT*** Based on my previous experience with Christian fiction, I was expecting, through pretty much the entire book, for Brander and Olive to “get together” romantically. It didn’t happen, and I cannot thank Taylor enough. It seems like in every Christian fiction, the main character finds a love interest and boom! At the end of the book, they’re together. That’s not Porch Swing Girl, and it’s part of what makes it so good. ***SPOILER ENDED***
Porch Swing Girl is a good read if one is looking for a clean, easy read that vividly depicts a girl struggling to come to terms with God, her faith, and her hardships. I would highly recommend it to everyone.
You can follow this link to purchase the book.