You all voted, and the book you voted for was Now! By Merikay McCloed.
There has been some debate about whether or not I should review this book. After all, the author was only 17 when she wrote it, and apparently she’s doing a lot of good, now, fighting the good fight for women’s ordination. No one really wants to tear her down. I debated the question myself, and the short answer is yes, we are doing it.
However, and this is a big however, I have to agree with the others who say that if I do so, I should do it differently. I’m not only not going to be vicious, mean, and snarky, I’m going to go one step further.
You see, Merikay isn’t the only teenager to write and end times story. When I was 15 or 16, I wrote a 50 page long book about the end times, printed up a bunch of copies, and gave them to my friends as a Christmas present.
As I read over this story now in preparation for this blog post, it is now my goal in life to hunt these people down and murder them, because oh my God this is BAD. And by bad I mean I kind of want to shoot myself in the face rather than publish it.
But I honestly think that this is the best way to go about reviewing this book, and it’s probably only fair that, at some point, I take a dose of my own medicine. Essentially, I am going to snark on myself. I am going to let you snark on me.
I will be posting my old story, chapter by chapter. This will then be followed by a post about Now! We’re going to compare and contrast the two as a way to explore how Seventh Day Adventist teenagers think. It will also give us a chance to bemoan the state of SDA education, and how I really feel that it crippled me as a writer.
In fact, to give you an idea of how potential writers in Adventism were stunted, lemme talk about Academy.
There were very strict guidelines on what type of writing was acceptable at the academy I went to. I don’t have the handbook from the early 00s when I went, but here is the policy on reading/writing now. It is copied directly from the student handbook of the Academy I went to, which I’m debating on naming. Note that students are not allowed to bring movies. Note that in my day, music was also prohibited, though I would be surprised if that was even enforceable anymore.
ENTERTAINMENTAcademy is intentional about building character and is concerned that students acquire anunderstanding of Christian living. As a Seventh-day Adventist school, our mission is toeducate young people to make entertainment choices based on an understanding and application of biblical principles. Therefore, Academy does not allow the following content:a.unacceptable languageb.immoral relationshipsc.intemperance and abuse of the bodyd.hatred, violent words and/or actionse.prejudice toward races, ethnic groups or religionsf.fantasy and unrealistic portrayalsg.crude or suggestive comedyh.music that militates against Christianityi.the occult and all related satanic agenciesj.all other similar non-Christian portrayals not mentioned
We also have this, on a different page under the heading: Major Discipline:
Occult:Any books, games, etc, having direct/indirect ties to the occult (such as witchcraft, vampires, zombies, etc) will result in major discipline, and the studentmay be asked to withdraw from school.
You see the problem immediately. Also, I was kind of brainwashed, by the more conservative members, into believing that the only stories that were acceptable were “come to Jesus” and “end times” type stories. Stories that were specifically Christian. At some points I was particularly devout, and I know I’m not the only one.
So, when reading stories written by people attending an Adventist academy, particularly one where these guidelines were actually enforced,* you can understand why sometimes Adventist fiction is just bad. (Frankly, Now! is one of the better SDA books that I have read.)
I have no idea if Ms. Mcleod actually went to an Adventist boarding school, but even if she didn’t, there’s a good possibility that similar guidelines existed in her home. The only really exciting topic you could write about was the end times. These were also the only types of stories wherein you could get away with killing off your characters.
In the end, I intend to write these posts in such a way that, if she were to read them, Merikay Mcleod and I could sit back and poke fun at our teenage selves.
*My English teacher, for example, was on the more liberal end of the spectrum. She had no problems with you writing a fantasy story, and she had no problem with me reading Twilight and Star Trek novels for silent reading.
So, one can debate whether or not these guidelines were actually enforced, but they are there, they do exist, and they can still be used against you.