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For those who would like to be familiar with the worldviews and messages in the books, films, and TV shows effecting a primarily Young Adult audience, I offer the following excerpts from some recent reviews. Keep in mind that my main goal is to look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers’ worldview. Click on the title links for the full reviews.

Neil Shusterman’s Unwind:

“Unwind is compelling. It’s disturbing. It makes the moral heart of our culture’s debate about the aforementioned issues unavoidable. It’s one thing to write academic papers about post-birth abortion; it’s quite another to vicariously experience the murder of innocent people deemed unworthy of life. The reader can’t help but cringe at the empty deception in defense of Unwinding while cheering those who fight to stop it.

Though Shusterman intended to take a neutral approach by highlighting hypocrisy on all sides, the story sends a clear message about the value of human life. I suspect that, deep inside, no one reading the story concludes that this is a tough issue that needs more philosophizing. We intuitively know that defending Unwinding with the promise of ongoing existence is a cruel lie. And if that’s true.…well, the debate about all the beginning of life issues mentioned earlier gets very interesting.”

Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game:

“Ender is neither hero nor villain. He is manipulated child, hardened slave, brilliant prodigy, fighter for peace, savior of our civilization and destroyer of other worlds. That’s why Ender commands our attention. We long for him to rise above a legacy of unintended tragedy. If a killer of worlds can atone for his crimes, maybe a thief, addict or cheater can too.”

“What If The Odds Are Against You?” (from The Hunger Games and Philosophy):

“No matter how powerful (or impotent) a role luck plays in orchestrating the parts of our lives that are out of our control, most people agree: moral character is something that has relevance only if it is in our control. We want to know if Katniss, Peeta and Gale will be controlled by their circumstances or rise above it. There is agency there. Intent, will and choice matter.”

“Dying To Be Entertained” (from The Hunger Games and Philosophy):

“Is it any wonder that the Capital is saturated in violence? The citizens of the capital have no way to gauge what healthy, stabilizing moral community looks like. All that’s left is power, and the ever present screen projects glittering, false stories to a steadily decaying culture.”



For those who would like to be familiar with the worldviews and messages in the books, films, and TV shows effecting a primarily Young Adult audience, I offer the following excerpts from some recent reviews. Keep in mind that my main goal is to look at how the story reflects and shapes the readers’ worldview. Click on the title links for the full reviews.

“The Day Miley Couldn’t Stop”:

“The people in the audience bought her music, so clearly the worldview in the song was not an issue. The VMA’s were even giving a nod of approval to the song by having it performed live. For better or worse, Miley took the song seriously. She lived out on the stage what was apparently “the good life.” She was being liberated!And then all the people who helped to put her on the stage judged her when the very song they love specifically said only God could do that. I think I know why: it was painfully obvious to everyone that what she embodied in those two songs was not a good life at all.”

Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane:

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane lingers with me. There is something here that taps into our deepest hopes and fears. At the heart of Gaiman’s mythic world a conflict rages between destruction and creation, between hope and fear, between the rapidly receding innocence of childhood and the encroaching reality of life.”

Stephen King’s Under The Dome: A Mid-Season Perspective:

“Under The Dome takes yet another look at what happens when people are given a chance to be themselves. Societal structures keep our collective evil in check; what happens when we are released from the obligation to conform to the moral expectations of those around us? Though the current series is not as good as the book (published in 2009), King’s stories are good enough to translate onto the screen, and the series is crushing the summer competition.” Continue Reading…

     It is easy to see howMaggie Stiefvater’s popular YA series, The Wolves of Mercy Falls, resonates with today’s YA audience.  In the midst of familial dysfunction and teenage angst, true love lurks just out of sight – until it shows up on your back deck. Literally.  Mrs. Stiefvater uses some great imagery to craft a morally murky morality tale about life, family, identity and love.  In the end, she offers hope that, for at least some of us, our history is not our destiny.
     This series offers a thought provoking (and sometimes disturbing) story that can at least start a conversation about mercy, grace, forgiveness and redemption. I say “at least start” because, from a Christian perspective, there are some important truths missing from the story that shouldn’t be, and a number of situations that aren’t missing from the story that should.
      For those of you interested in how entertainment both reflects and forms us, here is an excerpt of my review: 
As far as literary devices go, the metaphor of the wolf is a great way to explore a dark side of human nature that we are inclined to desire or indulge. 
         As Grace gets closer to changing, she sees that “there was something invisible and dangerous lurking inside me, and I was done being good.”  Wolves have no sense of boundaries, which is why they are in trouble.  They keep leaving Boundary Woods and ravaging the neighborhood pets – and sometimes people. This is a problem in itself.  But the book introduces a philosophical rabbit hole that may go much deeper than just physical transformation. 
     “In the end, we’re wolves. I can read him (Sam) German poetry and Paul can teach him about participles and you can play Mozart for him, but in the end, it’s a long, cold night and those woods for all of us.” So says one werewolf in a speech that sounds a lot like Dawkin’s view of the universe, or Cormac McCarthys’ view of life in Sunset Unlimited.  Are we all just animals in the end? If this is true, no wonder “Hope hurt more than cold,” as Sam says in Shiver.
    However, that’s not the final word in the story.  Sam believes that “It doesn’t make you a monster.  It just takes away your inhibitions…if you are naturally angry or violent, it gets worse.”  In other words, the wolf reveals us for who we really are – it supersizes us.  In this series, the wolf is not automatically evil; it is a way in which to see what the primal “you” is really like when stabilizing societal influences disappear.

To help us better understand the stories, worldviews, and messages shaping today’s youth, here is a review of a trending book series effecting a primarily YA audience.  The fact that they are trending does not necessarily make them good, but it does make them important.

Plot Summary

The highly acclaimed stories  of Kristin Cashore (Fire, Graceling, and Bitterblue) unfold in a world where certain people are born with Graces, gifts that give them a supernatural power. Every Grace is a mixed blessing; the recipients ‘unique strength becomes their undoing. The kings claim those with the greatest Graces and forces them into servitude. Those whose Graces are too ordinary to be of use are sent back home to live on the margins of society.  Graceling, the first book in the series, chronicles the life of Katsa, who is gifted with a fighting Grace.  Fire, the second book, is a sort-of prequel that fills in the history behind Graceling. In the third book, Bitterblue tries to fix a kingdom previous ruled by  her father, a cruel and evil man with the Grace of deception.


Among other awards, Fire won the ALA Best Book for Young Adults 2010, Publishers Weekly Best Continue Reading…