Title: Things I Can't Forget
Author: Miranda Kenneally
Publisher: Sourcebooks, 2013
In this third novel by Miranda Kenneally, she continues to write about teens in the Tennessee community of Hundred Oaks High, though this time it's summer and Cumberland Creek camp is the setting. Kate Kelly is a good girl who has always followed what she was told God wants for her life, until her best friend gets pregnant and needs her help with getting an abortion. Consumed with guilt, she heads off to her Christian camp where she is a counselor for the summer, hoping to find some sort of peace but not counting on it. What she does find is an unexpected friendship with classmate Parker and a very unexpected romance with an old friend. But she'll need to learn to forgive herself and let go of the past if she's going to be able to move forward.
Known for her teen romances that fuse sports with faith and personal struggles, Kenneally moves away from the sports aspect in this book and focuses on the rest. Kate used to play soccer, but her athleticism was almost completely taken away from her after tearing her ACL before the beginning of this book. She has to figure out what to do with herself and redefine herself without soccer, and without her best friend in her life.
There are a lot of great things about this book. I think it fills a niche in the YA market—a book examining belief while at the same time dealing with real issues. I feel like usually when I read books that talk about Christianity or religion, they are either super Christian with a clear message, only slightly touch on faith, or end up with the main character really not sure what they believe anymore. This is a refreshing take, for me, because it does deal with faith and religion, but also with issues like sex that confuse many young people if it clashes with what they've been taught. What I loved was how Kate looks at what she personally believes despite what others try to tell her, whether the "others" are the people at her church or her friends. In the end, she begins her journey toward figuring out her religious and moral beliefs. I could directly identify with her struggles, as I remember going through that myself, and I don't think you need to be a Christian in order to understand or relate.
There are a lot of subplots sprinkled throughout the novel, but they all tie in to what Kate is going through. Everything that happens to her contributes to her evolving worldview and makes her into a stronger person. I was also glad to see how much her father supports her in pretty much everything; at first it seems like he might be a bit controlling, but it becomes clear that Kate is wrong about what her dad wants for her. He just wants her to be happy, and I love that.
Though this isn't the best-written novel out there, it definitely has a place in today's culture. I would highly recommend this to teens who are dealing with this confusion, or anyone who enjoys teen romance with some depth. I'm looking forward to Kenneally's next book, Racing Savannah, out in December.
Disclosure: I got this e-book via NetGalley.