T.M.Gaouette is one of my favourite Catholic Teen Book authors. I love the way she captures the lives of young people who are living on the edge or who battle with the many temptations that teens need to navigate in the contemporary world. I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Tanner Rose. And this second book, Saving Faith, gripped me from the first few pages.
Once again, a teenager is finding herself making choices and behaving in a way that shocks her friends, family and even herself. Faith falls under the influence of an exciting, rebellious and dangerous character by the name of Christian. Christian knows how to charm and excite the girls. He entices young and naive Faith into his world of parties, late nights and underage drinking.
Faith finds herself betraying her friends and family as she falls more deeply under the spell of Christian. In a moment of desperation and fear she calls on the help of Gabriel. Gabriel featured in the first book of the series as an heroic figure who sticks by the wayward Tanner Rose and helps steer her back to her Catholic faith. In this story, Faith relies on Gabriel’s steadfastness and moral strength to save her from herself. She introduces Christian to Gabriel at Kung Fu school, and Gabriel’s own disciplined approach to life, faith and martial arts begins to influence Christian.
I like that T.M.Gaouette builds depth into her characters. As the story progresses, layers are peeled back to reveal the hard reality of Christian’s life. His father is harsh and emotionally distant, almost cruel in his disparaging remarks. It becomes clear that Christian’s mother left them when Christian was very young. His father appears to be bitter about his wife’s departure and subsequent lack of contact. The situation at home is toxic for Christian and appears to feed into his tendency towards self-destruction and lack of self-control. Christian is angry, and that anger is hurled in every direction of his life, tarnishing his relationships, his education and his capacity for joy.
Christian’s rage builds as the book continues, growing more ferocious and dangerous for Faith. Christian rales at Faith, her brother Adam and Gabriel. He rages at his father. Until finally, his father and he communicate about what is really at the heart of their problems – the loss of Christian’s mother. Clearly, there are no winners in a situation such as this. Both Christian and his father are hurting, and no one is talking. Christian’s father tries to express his feelings and his regrets, but he is not a man used to speaking about such things, and it is hard for him. By the end of the story, they have begun the long journey back into a more healthy father-son relationship.
A back story that weaves in and out of the main story is Gabriel’s uncertainty about his future. Unknown to many, he is discerning a priestly vocation, but he feels troubled by doubt. Towards the end, we also become aware that he is harbouring feelings of love for Tanner Rose, who has been away on missionary work. By story’s end, we are still left wondering which way Gabriel’s life will turn and the scene is set for the next book of the series.
I found the characters and situation believable, and young readers will relate to the characters and their responses. I was not entirely convinced that Faith reciting the Hail Mary over and over would stop Christian’s rage in its tracks, but for the purposes of the story, it was an exciting and pivotal scene. T.M.Goauette holds the character and the unfolding story firmly in her authorial hand and has produced another excellent Catholic book that young people will love. Themes of violence against women, the enduring legacy of early trauma and how ordinary people can find redemption are explored well in this story.