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Posted June 18, 2012
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Joëlle Anthony’s sophomore novel is a harsh and severe look into the life of struggling teen Jamie, in the aftermath of her refusal to join a cult. The Church of the Right & the Real looks okay from the outside. Members are religious and kind and care for one another, but in reality, they worship a man who claims he is the Jesus and they give up their life at the drop of a hat. When Jamie’s dad gets sucked in, brainwashed, marries another member, and kicks Jamie to the curb, her life falls apart. But with her dreams of NYC and more determination and strength than most others her age, she manages. Barely.
Jamie is easily one of the strongest female heroines I’ve read. Despite losing everything, she soldiers on and fights to follow her dreams. She suffers, sure, but at one point, she realizes she’s just getting by and that’s not enough. Not to make a life. So she changes that. Readers will be completely taken by Jamie; by her will to move on, but also by her need to do something to save her father. Even though she has so many strengths, Anthony is sure to make her vulnerable, because she is vulnerable. A 17 year old girl, all alone for the first time ever cannot have it easy, and Jamie doesn’t.
But that’s where the big, hulking, scary motel neighbor LaVon comes in. He’s incredible and I love him! LaVon and Jamie almost have that parent/child relationship that’s lacking because Jamie’s dad lost his marbles and joined a cult. LaVon's there for Jamie when no one else is. He's not perfect and he's certainly a little terrifying, but he's there.
The story deals with quite a few issues, but there’s also this deliciously sweet and perfect build-up to a relationship for Jamie. She has a boyfriend who’s a member of the Right & the Real and there’s clearly a lot of struggle for them because of it, but Jamie sticks to her guns when it’s the hardest. She stands up for her beliefs and she grows so much throughout the book because of it. The new guy Trent also sneaks into the story and brings a lighthearted edge to an otherwise serious plot. He is fabulous in so many ways and I want him for myself.
The Right & The Real is one of those books that take you by surprise. You pick it up expecting a good story, but then find yourself unable to put it down. I was reading into the late hours of the night/wee hours of the morning because I had to know how Jamie would survive, if her dad would wake up, whether or not the Right & the Real would win, if she’d dump her somewhat douchey boyfriend, and if she could let the harmless flirting with coffee boy Trent turn into something more. Believe me when I say that the love story aspect plays very little into the plot, but the characters, oh the characters, they are phenomenal. Read it for Jamie. Read it every little thing I said here and for every little thing I had to leave out. You won’t be disappointed.
Posted May 2, 2012
Joelle Anthony has cemented her place on my shelf as an author I love. Her first book, Restoring Harmony, blew me away with it's originality and great characters. The Right & the Real has done it again.
This is a scary book, but not because of anything paranormal. This story is very frightening because it feels so real. Ripped from the headlines. LaVon is such a cool character. I wish I could meet him in real life. He's one of those characters that I like to see so much in YA books - the one that scares you are first, but turns out to be such a great person. And Trent! A total caring and trusting boss. The things Jamie goes through and endures are astounding. Things no teenage girl should ever have to deal with. But she handles it with such strength and grace that I found myself pausing to wonder how I would have reacted if I were in her shoes. There were a few elements in the story that were a little hard to believe, such as Jamie loving acting so much and getting in to a great acting college. For someone so studious, we barely saw her crack open a book. The other thing that was difficult to see happening was how no one else seemed to know what was going on with her, from her teachers to her best of friends. Ultimately, though, this was a book I had trouble putting down. I enjoyed Janie's journey immensely and it should go without saying that I am looking forward to whatever Joelle Anthony has for us next.