Click to see a larger image of Saint Training by Elizabeth FixmerSaint Training by Elizabeth Fixmer
Published by Zonderkidz, an imprint of Zondervan

Mary Clare O’Brien has one goal for her future: to become a saint. When she prays to God, she makes deals with Him in exchange for the things her family really needs – money to pay the bills, her brother to be safe as he has been drafted for the war in Vietnam, and for the new baby her mother is carrying to be healthy. But things aren’t working the way Mary Clare believes they should, so she turns to a Mother Superior at a local convent for answers, and it is in her communication with the Mother that she begins to see the black and white world she’s always lived in with some shades of gray.

Saint Training ended up winning the INSPY award for Literature for Young People, and I have to say that I personally loved the book and am glad that it won. There are so many topics covered in this novel – the Vietnam war, feminism, race relations, the changing Catholic church in the 60’s – but at its heart is a story about a girl who is coming into her own understanding of her faith. That type of story is exactly what I am looking for when I am picking up Christian fiction, and I am so happy to say that Saint Training is an excellent example of Christian literature for teens for this reason.

While there are quite a few topics in the book, it never feels overdone or flooded with “issues”. Rather, these topics serve as the backdrop for Mary Clare’s coming of age journey. In the beginning of the novel, Mary Clare sees the world around her as completely black and white – things are either right or wrong, and she has a hard time comprehending how people could see certain things that she knows to be wrong as being okay. She spends so much time at the beginning of the novel attempting to find the answers to all these questions she has about the world around her, and what’s beautiful about the book is that she comes to realize there aren’t always going to be solid answers to every question she has. Things happen in the world that we can’t explain and can’t comprehend, and slowly over the course of the novel Mary Clare begins to get that. What is awesome about her journey is that she doesn’t allow these questions to tamper with her faith in God – rather, her faith becomes even stronger as she understands how complicated the world He created really can be. I feel like I need to apologize because I’m not explaining this very well, but trust me – Mary Clare herself is an amazing character of YA fiction and her faith journey was such a joy for me to read about.

I love, loved Saint Training. There’s a reason this book won the INSPY award for Literature for Young People – it is fantastic.

This review was syndicated on BlogHer February 24, 2012.