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What Matters Most (Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Maya #3)

What Matters Most (Diary of a Teenage Girl Series: Maya #3)

4.3 10
by Melody Carlson

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Maya’s Green Tip for the Day: Recycled fashion is one of the most fun ways to go green. A pair of jeans could be transformed into a denim skirt. A sweater into a vest. A bunch of old ties into a dress. A blanket into a poncho. Accessorize it in new way–with beads, buttons, appliqués, buckles, stencils, or ribbons…your imagination is only the


Maya’s Green Tip for the Day: Recycled fashion is one of the most fun ways to go green. A pair of jeans could be transformed into a denim skirt. A sweater into a vest. A bunch of old ties into a dress. A blanket into a poncho. Accessorize it in new way–with beads, buttons, appliqués, buckles, stencils, or ribbons…your imagination is only the limit. (65 words)

Sixteen-year-old Maya Stark has a lot to sort through. She could graduate from high school early if she wants to. She’s considering it, especially when popular cheerleader Vanessa Hartman decides to make her life miserable–and Maya’s ex-boyfriend Dominic gets the wrong idea about everything.

To complicate matters even more, Maya’s mother will be released from prison soon, and she’ll want Maya to live with her again. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And when Maya plays her dad’s old acoustic guitar in front of an audience, she discovers talents and opportunities she never expected. Faced with new options, Maya must choose between a “normal” life and a glamorous one. Ultimately, she has to figure out what matters most.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Maya is a fun character! It's not even possible to read It's a Green Thing and not relate to her questions, her challenges, and her struggles as a teen and Christian. And I found myself jotting down her awesome eco-friendly tips!”
Jenny B. Jones, Award winning author of In Between and The Charmed Life series

“As Maya Stark pours her heart out in her journal, readers are treated to an inside view of a life that is at times exotic and unfamiliar, and at other times hauntingly similar to our own. Maya’s struggles become our struggles, her pain our pain, and her successes, therefore, even sweeter. A Not-So-Simple Life is another triumph for Melody Carlson.”
Virginia Smith, author of Sincerely, Mayla and Stuck in the Middle

“Fantastic book! Maya is so easy to like–this is a hard story to put down!”
Erynn Mangum, author of Miss Match

“Melody Carlson has proven her skill once again at writing gritty stories about characters in difficult situations. In A Not-so-Simple Life, Maya Stark seeks to escape life under the controlling hand of her drug-addict mother by acting on a plan for independence with admirable determination.”
Michelle Buckman, author of Maggie Come Lately and My Beautiful Disaster

“I just finished Melody’s book and loved it! The journal format makes the story, and Maya, so real and believable. Readers will easily be able to identify with the realistic approach to a prevalent situation.”
Patricia Rushford, author of the Max & Me Mysteries

Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Sold by:
Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Read an Excerpt

September 16
Is it possible that trouble just naturally follows some people? Or perhaps there's something about my "magnetic personality" that attracts negativity. Or as Caitlin would say, maybe God is at work on me. But seriously, sometimes a girl just needs a break.
Here's the deal. It's the third week of school, and I'm finally on fairly good terms with Brooke and Amanda, and Dominic and I are getting along okay, and my classes are going pretty well, and I've even made a few new friends. Things are looking up for Marissa, although she's still not out of the woods completely, but I'll get to that later.
So anyway, it almost seems like I can relax just a little—like maybe I can just breathe and enjoy a taste of the normal life (a life still fairly unfamiliar to me). And suddenly I find out that I've made an enemy. Not just any enemy either. The girl who's set her mean-girl sights on me is none other than Miss Popularity. Not that I'm into that kind of thing. But according to Brooke and Amanda, Vanessa Hartman is. And for whatever reason, Vanessa Hartman is also into making my life miserable. Yesterday I thought our little encounter was just an accident. I actually laughed when she and her friends burst into the cafeteria with so much enthusiasm that they practically knocked me off my feet. Okay, I'll admit her apology sounded a little phony, and I thought I saw a glint of evil in her big blue eyes, but who am I to judge? Then today we had another "encounter." Only this one was a lot messier.
I was standing in the cashier's line, minding my own business and waiting to pay for my lunch, when something icy cold slid downmy back. I jumped and turned around in time to see Vanessa looking surprised (maybe it was faux surprise).
"Oh, did I do that? I was trying to squeeze into line and lifted my tray up." She shook her head with dumb blond wonder. "And it just sort of tipped. Sorry."
Her friends were snickering, and I tried to shake ice off my back and pay for my lunch and get out of there as fast as possible to assess the damage.
"What's up with that girl?" I asked Brooke Marshall as I sat down next to her. I've been eating lunch with her and Amanda Groves lately. Although I'm sure we make a strange trio since both these girls are petite and preppy whereas I'm more into retro and almost a foot taller. "I mean, yesterday she practically knocked me down, and today she does this. I can't wait to see what's on tomorrow's agenda."
Brooke tried to blot the cold liquid out of my hoodie with a wad of napkins, but it was obvious I'd need to change. "It's okay," I told her. "I've got some work clothes in my car." Brooke laughed as she tossed down the damp napkins. "It figures you'd keep your cool clothes in your car and dress like this for school."
"Well, Jacqueline's is known for stylish fashion, so I can't exactly show up in jeans." I peeled off my soggy hoodie. "And I can't go in wearing soda-soaked clothes either."
"I can't believe she really did that. And her apology…give me a break." Brooke rolled her eyes, then imitated Vanessa. "'It sort of tipped. Sorry.' I mean, how does something 'sort of' tip?"
"Conveniently down your back," added Amanda.
Now Dominic Walsh was joining us. I smiled up at him, thinking, not for the first time, that he has the dreamiest blue eyes—such a contrast to his dark hair. "Hi, ladies." He set down his tray and slid next to me.
"Did you see what Vanessa just did to Maya?" Amanda demanded.
He nodded. "And it was pretty low."
"Seriously, I wonder what's wrong with that girl?" Brooke asked.
"I know what's wrong." Dominic smiled knowingly.
"What?" I asked him. "What is her problem?"
"You mean besides being a little too full of herself?" He touched the back of my soggy shirt and made a face. "Yuck. That's sticky."
"It figures she spilled a soda with sugar in it," Amanda said.
"I'll bet she normally drinks diet too."
 "So you agree that it was premeditated?" I asked Dominic.
"That's my guess," he said.
"But why? I hardly even know her." I glanced over to where Vanessa was sitting with friends—a lot of friends. In a way, she reminded me of a queen holding court. "I mean, she's in a couple of my classes. In choir she even smiled at me. I actually thought she was kind of nice."
"That's what she wants you to think," Amanda said.
"That's what she wants everyone to think," Brooke said. "But beneath her nicey-nice veneer, she's really a witch."
"That's a little harsh," I countered. "I mean, the soda spill might've been an accident."
"I don't think so," Dominic said with a knowing look.
"Then tell me why."
"You know who Wyatt Cooper is, right?"
"Yeah. He's in my AP history. He seems like a nice guy."
"And he thinks the same about you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Dominic frowned slightly. "He thinks you're hot, Maya."
I just shrugged. "So?"
"So," declared Brooke, "that explains everything."
Amanda nodded. "Mystery solved."
"Can someone please tell me what you guys are talking about?"
"Okay, let's bring her up to date," Brooke said. "Vanessa and Wyatt went together for the past couple of years."
 "They were like the perfect couple," Amanda explained. "You know, the ones who act like they rule the entire school, like they think they should be called King Wyatt and Queen Vanessa—and they get crowned for homecoming or prom or wherever crowns
are being handed out."
"Do you get it now?" Brooke asked with some impatience.
"Not exactly. But go on." Okay, I suppose I knew what they were suggesting. But it seemed a little presumptuous. I mean, can't a guy be nice just because he wants to be nice? Why does it have to mean something more? Why do people jump to the worst conclusions?
"The happy couple broke up this summer." Amanda glanced over to Vanessa's table. "And my guess is that Wyatt broke up with her."
"Not that we'll ever know," added Brooke.
"So now that Wyatt is into you, Vanessa probably wants you dead," declared Amanda.
"Great." I sighed.
"It might help your situation if they thought you and Dominic were still dating," Brooke suggested.
I gave Dominic a halfhearted smile. "Well, we're not, are we, Dominic?"
"That's right. We're just friends."
And that's what we've agreed to be. Just friends. Oh, I told Dominic that I'd consider going out with him again but only if we made some sort of agreement about our physical relationship first. And I've been so distracted with school and visiting Marissa and my newspaper column ("It's a Green Thing") and the TV spot and occasionally working at Jacqueline's…well, I just haven't given the idea of dating Dominic that much thought. In fact, I like it better that we're just friends. I'm just not sure if he's happy about it. But Brooke or Amanda would love to date him. I'm not sure how I'd feel about that. Mostly I'm not thinking about it.
However, I did enjoy telling Marissa this whole story when I visited her at the hospital today. Although I don't think she quite got it (or maybe she did—it's hard to tell), she did seem to enjoy hearing it. Of course, she always seems happy to see me. She doesn't get that many visitors now. Part of the reason is because a lot of kids (likemy cousin Kim) have gone off to college. But I think the rest of the reason is because it's hard seeing her like that.
As a result of the car wreck, Marissa suffered some fairly severe brain damage. She's doing a lot of therapy, and the doctor says her language skills will probably return eventually but she will never be the same person.
"Maybe it's for the best," Brooke said when I shared that news with youth group last Saturday night.
"What do you mean?" I demanded.
"Well, Marissa was pretty wild. Maybe this will settle her—"
"I can't believe you would say that!" I shot back at her.
Fortunately Caitlin intervened. A good thing, since I felt like smacking Brooke just then. I mean, I've been really trying to get along with her, but cracks like that…Well, I come kind of unglued.
Marissa was wild, and I know she made some incredibly stupid choices—like drinking and driving—but there was a part of her wild side that I actually liked. I enjoyed her wit and her sarcastic humor. I liked that she wasn't afraid to speak her mind or question Christians who weren't acting much like Christians. Those characteristics never really bothered me at all. And I always imagined her eventually finding God—on her terms…or maybe on His. I'm not even sure. But I always thought she'd make a cool Christian.
And now…well, I'm sure she'll still make a cool Christian. But she has changed. I miss the old Marissa. Still, I'm committed to being her friend, and I will continue to visit her. And who knows? Maybe the doctor is wrong. Maybe she'll get back her language skills and her personality too. Because really, why wouldn't God want Marissa to have her personality back? Anyway, that's what I'm praying for. Chloe and Caitlin and several others are praying for the same thing. We want Marissa back. But we also want her to give her heart to God. And we think it could happen.
September 18
Today I met with Mrs. King, the guidance counselor at Harrison High, to establish what year in school this should be for me. Because of my lack of transcripts from previous schooling—although I gave myself grades during my homeschooling era—my status as a student needs to be determined.
"Of course, you're aware," she began, "that you weren't even required to attend public school once you acquired your GED."
 "I know…"
"But I'm glad you decided to come back here." She smiled. "I think Harrison High needs you."
I tried not to frown. "I'm not sure everyone agrees."
She looked surprised. "Why not?"
"Nothing—never mind." I waved my hand in dismissal. Why had I said that?
But she just chuckled. "Yes, I'm sure it won't be all smooth sailing, Maya. It never is. But like my dad used to tell me, what doesn't kill you will make you stronger."
I nodded. "Yes, I've heard that one."
"So…" She flipped through my file. "Based on the academic testing we did last year before you took the GED, you could easily make this your senior year. But based on your age"—she peered curiously at me—"this should be your junior year. Which do you want it to be?"
"It's my choice?"
"For the most part…since your case is rather exceptional. I assume you're still working on your emancipation?"
I gave her a quick update on my parents and how I was staying with my uncle for the time being. "My mother's appeal is at the end of the month," I said. "From what I've heard, there's a good chance she could be released. My dad said it wasn't so much due to her being proven innocent as to the overcrowded situation in California state prisons. And I suppose her attorney is pretty good too."
 "So what does that mean for you, Maya?"
"I'm not totally sure. My dad hasn't had time to petition the courts for my custody yet. And to be honest, I don't really want him to. I mean, I've been taking care of myself for a while now. I think I'd like to continue that way. Plus he'll be out of the country for about six months anyway."
"Does your mother still have legal custody?"
"According to the law. But based on her criminal record, along with what I've managed to put together toward my emancipation, I think a judge would rule in my favor."
She nodded. "I think you're right, Maya. And if there's anything I can do to help your case, please feel free to ask."
I thanked her, and then we returned to the question of what year this should be for me.
"What do you really want, Maya?"
I thought carefully. "I'm not sure."
"I understand. But we should get this figured out, especially if you want to be a senior. You'll have to jump through certain hoops if you want to graduate in the spring—I mean, with a Harrison High School diploma and not just a GED or state degree."
So I asked her to explain the difference, and she told me that a diploma from Harrison would be much more impressive on my transcript than a GED or even a state diploma. "And I assume you will want to go to college?"
I nodded eagerly.
 "And based on the testing we did last spring, I assume you'll want to go to a good college. I have a strong suspicion we can get some scholarship funds coming your way, which is just one more reason to determine whether this is your junior or senior year."
"What do you recommend?"
Her brow creased. "I think you're the only one who can answer that, Maya."
"Yes." I sighed. "I guess I should pray about it."
"That sounds wise. And if you could let me know by next week—especially if you want this to be your senior year—I would appreciate it."
I thanked her and left. But now I'm unsure. A part of me feels like I've barely gotten into a real school, like this is my first shot at a somewhat "normal" life. What if just one year isn't enough? But another part of me feels like maybe it will be more than enough. Like when I think about the juvenile games some high school kids play—like Vanessa Hartman plays. But I don't want to think about that right now. At the moment I'd rather think about whether I'm a junior or a senior this year. I've given myself the weekend to figure it out. I plan to e-mail Kim about it. And I'll talk to Caitlin on Saturday. Most importantly, I plan to pray about it. I want to know what God wants me to do. That's what matters most.
Maya's Green Tip for the Day
Even in September most people are still using air conditioning. I've mentioned before that it's a good idea to turn your AC up a couple of degrees and save a few bucks as well as some energy. But here's another way to keep your cool—and it doesn't involve electricity. You can cool yourself off internally by drinking cold tea, lemonade, or water. Not only will you conserve energy (since all the cooling power is directed straight at your body's core rather than at the air), but you'll stay hydrated as well.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Meet the Author

Melody Carlson is an award-winning, best-selling author of nearly two hundred books for teens, children, and adults, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the Secret Life of Samantha McGregor series, the True Color Series, and Notes from a Spinning Planet series. Melody has two grown sons and lives in central Oregon with her husband, where they enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping, and biking.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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What Matters Most 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Novel_Teen_Book_Reviews More than 1 year ago
Maya is trying to figure out what matters most in life. Should she graduate early? Date the boy she likes even though she knows it's a bad idea? Join a rock band and go on the road? Then her mom shows up and threatens everything Maya has worked so hard for. How should a Christian act toward a parent like her mom? Should Maya let her mom ruin her life again? Should she stand up to her? I really enjoyed this series. Maya is a neat character. She's very independent and hard-working. She always tries to do the right thing, and when she fails and loses her temper, she eventually comes around and does the hard thing of apologizing. This book was really about how to love difficult people. My only wish, I would have liked to see more about how things respovel with Dominic. As with all Maya's stories, each chapter ends with one of Maya's Green Tip for the Day. I highly recommend this series for any teenage girl who loves to read. Maya is an awesome character to get to know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
These boojs really got me thinking and really had me consider things about my vown walk with the Lord. I truely recommend this to any teenage girl. Ive read the caitlin, kim and now the maya books. The chloe books are in my sisters kundle and were going to trade. Please read these they are worth the money and the girls really grow on you. All four of them(caitlin,chloe,kim,and maya) have almlst completely different personalities, but they have one thin in common. God. Thye all know each other too. Caitlin starts off as a highschooler and then her books end up with her a senioor in college. Then Kim, she starts off a junior in highschooland ends on going to college is one of caitlin's youth group girls that she mentors. Maya is Kim's cousin that moves in with Kim and meets Caitlin and Chloe. I havent read the Chloe books but Chloe is Caitlin's siser un law. So they all know each ither but are totally different people. I am a teenager and I love these books. These are the books that got me REALLY interested in reading. Now i read like 2-3 books a week! It's hard for me to find enough books to read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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DaisyC More than 1 year ago
Diary of a Teenage Girl, Maya: Book 4 By Melody Carlson Initial response: Horray! :) Age: 15+ Synopsis: Always excited about a new Diary of a Teenage Girl book, this was sure to please. And it certainly did. As background, Melody Carlson has written over 200 books, including 16 Diary of a Teenage Girl books, separated into four series of four each. Chloe, Catlin, Kim, and Maya all know each other, and we read each of their journals. Although rather partial to Chloe, I found Maya as someone I could also sympathize with. Maya has grown up taking care of her addicted mother. Independent, brave, but secretly wishing for a normal family, Maya enters High School for the first time (she has been homeschooled all her life). Several great decisions press on her; what will she choose? What will she do with her new-found musical ability? Melody Carlson has a knack for getting inside a girls head and then translating it to the page: take it from me. While these girls' journals are more novels than journals - even I never remember details like that - I still love them. Quick, thought-provoking reads about Christ-committed girls; these are excellent for whoever wants to understand teenagers a little more - whether you are one or not.
MadamePresident More than 1 year ago
What Matters Most is Book 3 is the Diary of a Teenage Girl series about Maya. She is a girl who has a less than idea life, she can live the dream or she can deal with her mother who has spent time in prison. It's an important decision and she has to figure out what is right. The series is good. I find this book, but I know my 14 year old sister has read the whole series.
the3kidsandme More than 1 year ago
I was beyond excited when I had the chance to review a Melody Carlson Book. I have never read any of her Young Adult books, but I love some of her other books. Even though this was a Young Adult Book, I was hooked. I didn't have all the details cause I haven't read the previous books yet, but that really didn't play a huge part. However, I will be looking into the whole series now! For a young adult book, it had me thinking. I was really inspired and drawn to this book. I would encourage any teen to read this book. Melody Carlson, is a truly wonderful writer, I love her books!!
Janna6 More than 1 year ago
"What Matters Most" is the latest and last in Melody Carlson's Diary of a Teenage Girl series. It is book 16 I believe though the series follows four different girls and all of them show up in this book. I think the concept is great, we read the whole book through the eyes of Maya's diary which is actually kind of fun, with the exception that I don't know anyone that is THAT detailed when they write in their diary! I mean, goodness, she writes entire conversations down word for word :-) Maya is a great character - a smart girl with a rock star dad who is never around and an incarcerated mom who has never been a mother to her, she lives with her uncle and is in the process of trying to get emancipation when her mom is released from jail. She has boy issues, girl issues with the snotty cheerleader and the girls from youth group, lots of irons in the fire and now she is starting jam sessions with this Christian Girl Band, Redemption, that lost one of their members to college. Does she really want to be a rock star? Great premise... here is where it goes wrong... I read the last chapter and look to see when the next book comes out to wrap up all the loose ends in this book... um, try never??? As great as this book is and the series is... I can't believe all the things that are left undone. I was left feeling unsatisfied. It would be a great book if there were another one following, as it is I enjoyed it, I just wish there was more to it.
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
What Matters Most by Melody Carlson is the third book in the Maya line and the final book in the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. Maya Stark is finally starting to have a normal life. She's started high school and is making friends, but her mother's release from jail threatens her peace of mind. And the possibility of touring with Christian girl rock group, Redemption makes normal life seem not so appealing. She'll have to make some major decisions for a sixteen-year old girl, as well as deal with the repercussions of previous books in the series. As someone unfamiliar with the DOATG series, I did feel a little lost when it came to juggling characters and backstories. But when focusing on Maya the story was appealing. This is a young woman who has been through an enormous amount in just a few short years and has a good head on her shoulders along with a strong faith. Her "green" tips seemed a bit unnecessary, and while her appearances on TV were referenced regarding them, she never actually seemed to actually do them. Carlson completely nails how teenage girls think and speak, and I am truly impressed by her ability to write believably in so many different voices!
Deborah_K More than 1 year ago
I have enjoyed Maya's story since she was first introduced in the Kim books of this series. She has struck me as a character that is very real, very down to earth and someone who is trying to figure out life each day at a time. Her story is different from other teens in most Christian YA fiction. First off, there's the fact that Maya is biracial, which sadly is uncommon in most Christian lit. Then there's the fact that she's struggling with a mother who is unable to take care of herself or her own daughter. Maya is extremely mature for her age and it's interesting to see her compared with other teens. While they may have more things material wise, she's far more richer in knowledge of the future and mental growth. Once again, I really enjoyed reading the Green tips at the end of each chapter. I may not agree with all of them, but the fact that they're even there shows a nod to those who do care for this topic. I have yet to really see this featured in other Christian fiction books so this is a major plus for the series. I've also learned a lot about recycling and conserving which is something I need to work on. I also enjoyed seeing more about the band Redemption. I enjoyed reading about them in Chloe's series so it was great to see first hand experience about what it's like to be a rock band again. The outcome wasn't what I had expected but still interesting. The only thing that bothered me about this book was that I felt there were a lot of loose ties at the end of the book. I've read every book in the entire Diary of a Teenage Girl series and each time one of the other girl's stories ended, I felt a sense of completion. However with this book I felt like I was left hanging. This is even more disappointing because this is apparently the last Diary book ever, therefore there won't be another opportunity for Maya to appear in another book as a background character to finish up her story. I also felt that Maya got shorted in her story because the other 3 girls had at least 4 books in their mini series and Caitlin got 5. While each individual girl's series can be read on their own, it's best to read all the books in that particular series in order. For an even greater perspective, it's recommended to read ALL the books in order: Caitlin, Chloe, Kim, and Maya. Overall, I did enjoy this book. I think that teens will really enjoy reading Maya's adventures. Carlson has done another wonderful job connecting with the YA audience and really speaks to them. I'm really sad to see this series ending as I think it's been a landmark in the way that Christian YA fiction has become.