Eighteen-year-old Riley Kane leads a quiet life in a small, obscure town, and he’s just fine with that. If he really wanted to, he could have the fame and fortune that go with being the son of a prominent athlete — but he doesn’t want to. After a rough childhood and adolescence, Riley has found faith, peace, and a decent job at a feed store, and he just wants to be left alone to savor them. But all that changes when he reconnects with Becca, a girl he knew long ago when they were children in Sunday school.
Becca’s life couldn’t be more different from Riley’s — she’s a sweet, innocent girl from a large homeschooled family — but it’s not long before he’s completely smitten. When she and her family suddenly have to leave town to be with Becca’s father, who’s been in a bad accident out in New Mexico, Riley is devastated.
But he soon figures out a way that he can see her again and take her family some much-needed supplies. All it will take is a big favor from his dad . . . whom Riley hasn’t seen or spoken to in many years.
“To Get to You” by Christian author Joanne Bischof (the first book in her Wild Air series), has been named a finalist for this year’s Christy Awards, in the Young Adult category. It’s a charming, wholesome story about a young man finding new relationships and rediscovering old ones. Faith is a quiet presence in the story, clearly playing a significant part in several characters’ lives, but never obtrusive.
Both Riley and his dad are dealing with fallout from bad decisions they made in the past. Riley’s dad, a famous surfer, impregnated his mother before marriage, then walked out on the family when Riley was still very young. Understandably, Riley has been harboring anger and resentment against his father for years, feelings that aren’t about to evaporate right away just because his dad is now helping him out.
It’s strongly implied that Riley, for his part, has had relationships with girls that crossed the line, which sometimes make him feel inadequate and ashamed as he’s trying to start a new relationship with the sheltered Becca. (Especially since Becca’s family has very strict rules about boy-girl relationships; many Christians will recognize the signs of “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”-style courtship culture.)
But “To Get to You” offers gentle, hopeful reminders that no sin is too great to be forgiven, and that even the most broken relationships may not be broken beyond repair.
If there’s anything to be concerned about in this book, it’s the pacing. The story — most of which is taken up by the road trip to reach Becca’s family — moves very slowly. And practically everything Riley does, from preparing breakfast to working on his car to finding a song on his iPod, is described painstakingly and thoroughly. Young readers who are more used to fast-moving, page-turning action stories may find themselves getting bogged down at times.
But the strengths of Bischof’s writing include warm, likable characters who are able to get readers on their side; relationships and scenarios that feel real and relatable; and an ability to integrate faith seamlessly into the difficult times of life. Many teens who aren’t bothered by a slow pace and a wealth of detail will enjoy this book, and their parents are sure to appreciate the lack of content problems and the healthy Christian perspective on life, love, and starting over.
Gina Dalfonzo is editor of BreakPoint.org and Dickensblog.