Allison's Book Bag

Secrets of the Porch by Sue Ann Sellon

Posted on: January 28, 2016

Secrets of the Porch by Sue Ann Sellon caused a lot of discussion this week between my husband and me. The plot and characters of this Christian romance are unevenly developed but otherwise the writing is acceptable. Until about two-thirds through, the novel did its job of entertaining me. In the last third, however, came a revelation that changed my feelings towards this particular young adult novel.

Sixteen-year-old Sophie is caught robbing a gas station with her boyfriend Gabe, but avoids juvenile detention when a judge sentences her instead to spend a year on a farm with her grandmother whom she has never met. This synopsis caught my attention, as I have a soft spot for troubled youth, and even tried my own hand at writing stories about them. The first chapter started out well enough too, showing Sophie as this tough teen who threw around words like freak, pig, and ass. Hardened by the death of her mother, life on the streets, and an abusive boyfriend, Sophie even shows contempt to the judge and puts up a fight against the guards who escort her in and out of the courtroom. Unfortunately, despite her background of mentoring pregnant teens, Sellon is unable to maintain a consistent depiction of Sophie as a troubled teen. At times, such as when Sophie throws eggs at a rooster for mischief, she seems too innocent and too young. Speaking of which, I realize that sixteen-year-olds are almost adults, and therefore will talk more like them than children. At the same time, the narrator too often sounds less like a teen who is trying to figure out her chaotic life, and more often like a mature author who is imparting wisdom she has gained with age.

Still, in the first two-thirds, there’s a certain beauty about Secrets of the Porch. Unrealistic as her Sophie’s rapid transformation might be, I enjoyed reading about her falling for nature, the farm, and her grandmother. Oh, and for the family dog. Sellon successfully convinces me of how unloved and abandoned Sophie has felt since the loss of her mom, and so I’m rooting for her to find happiness and family again. Despite its uneven quality, Secrets of the Porch has all the makings of a feel-good story, and that initially made for an entertaining read.

Then came the revelation by Sophie’s grandmother of her past life. You’ll notice that I’ve referred to Secrets of the Porch as a Christian romance. More than a small portion of the book refers to God, his grace, his forgiveness, his love, and to church. Thus, it surprised—no, shocked me—to read a certain revelation. Earlier in the story, Sophie had shared her own troubled past, which involved theft and other delinquent acts. However, Sophie also comes to feel remorse for those, and so they didn’t bother me. In contrast, her grandmother behaves in a way that goes against Biblical beliefs, and yet never once does any of the “good” characters condemn her actions. In fact, she seems to have remained respected and revered in the community, and that did bother me.

When I shared my aghast feelings with my husband, we ended up having a long talk about what readers will and will not accept from authors. Consider, would you feel okay with a novel in which the main character vandalized for fun, and never suffered any consequences? Would you feel okay with a novel in which the main character tortured others, and no one ever acted as if this were wrong? In other words, is it acceptable for authors to portray a main character as going against our belief systems, because after all they’re just telling a story? Or do authors have an obligation to ultimately have the lead character change or suffer because of immoral actions?

I wish I could recommend Secrets of the Porch. The author touches on a topic for which I have a soft spot. She also beautifully portrays the Midwest, the region where I now live. The writing isn’t bad. Sadly though, the novel fails for me on two levels. First, it is marketed as a young adult novel, but contains sexually mature content. Second, and this is what disturbs me most, Secrets of the Porch condones a lifestyle that goes against Christian values while in every other way portraying itself as a Christian novel. For these reasons, I can’t in good conscience recommend Secrets of the Porch.

My rating? Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.

How would you rate this book?

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2 Responses to "Secrets of the Porch by Sue Ann Sellon"

This book is the way of much of society. No values, nor morals. I see this happening all the time. The thug life is idolized and cops, Christians, white people are demonized. The world has gone mad. It is creeping in daily into our very fabric. I don’t like it either.

Have a fabulous day and this is a great review. 🙂

Two-thirds of Secrets of the Porch is highly moralistic. Unfortunately, the last third focused too much on the power of love rather than on the importance of moral values.

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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee

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