CM . . . . Volume XVIII Number 40 . . . . June 15, 2012
Kirsten L. Klassenís latest novel, Katelynís Friendship is a sequel to Katelynís Affection. The novel follows 17-year-old Katelyn as she struggles to deal with her best friend Leahís decision to have an abortion. This novel is clearly intended for conservative Christian readers and does not hesitate from being overtly didactic and preaching to readers about the sins of abortion and premarital sex. The novel also has many issues in the storytelling that make it difficult and clunky to read.The didactic and judgmental treatment of abortion makes this novel seem close-minded and makes it difficult for readers to like the main character. When Katelyn learns that Leah is pregnant and needs help to get to an abortion clinic, Katelyn is horrified. Although Katelyn is well aware that the father of the child is in jail after badly beating Leah and carving the word ďMineĒ into her stomach, she cannot muster up compassion or empathy for her friend. Instead, Katelyn ignores Leah and distances herself from her best friend. This seems unnecessarily cruel of Katelyn and overly judgmental. The resolution of the conflict does not do much to elevate Katelyn in the readerís eyes. Katelyn decides to forgive Leah and continue their friendship only after discovering that Leahís child was conceived in rape. Even though she refuses to accept the abortion, she decides she can forgive Leahís actions and resume their friendship. However, by the time Katelyn decides to forgive Leah, her friend is too hurt by Katelynís behaviour during the crisis, and Leah is not willing to accept Katelynís late apology. Conveniently, Kiana (a little girl who Katelyn befriended while volunteering as a horseback riding instructor for children with serious illnesses) dies. In Katelynís grief, Leah is able to be the bigger person and comfort Katelyn in a way that Katelyn had been unable to do for her. While Katelynís eventual decision to forgive Leah and the loss of Kiana might improve readersí attitudes towards Katelyn, the last pages of the book may leave readers irritated with her once again. Only hours after learning about Kianaís death, Katelyn returns home in a good mood. Her family doesnít know Kiana is dead, but Katelyn does not mention it. Instead, she ďsmiledĒ and tells her family ďLeah and I are friends again.Ē She has a casual conversation with her family about dinner, and the novel ends on a positive note. As Katelynís relationship with Kiana was one of the redeeming features of her character, the fact she is able to focus on her renewed friendship with Leah and all but ignore the death of Kiana is upsetting.
Katelynís Friendship may also alienate readers because it is confusing and frustrating if readers have not read the first book about Katelyn. Key details about situations that affect how the characters interact or why they are in the present situations are not addressed at the appropriate moments in the novel as the author assumes the reader remembers these things from the first book. For instance, readers are not told Katelyn is a Mennonite until well into the story. By this time, they are wondering why everyone in this modern setting relies on landlines and payphones or writes letters. Other social aspects are still confusing for readers unfamiliar with the small-town Northern Indiana culture where it seems everyone is Mennonite or evangelical Christian and it is normal for Katelyn to publicly date one boy while having a long-distance boyfriend. Other key pieces of information that are not revealed until the reader is thoroughly confused include the details of Leahís relationship with her ex-boyfriend. This assumption that the reader is familiar with the story and characters from the first novel means that the reader may become frustrated and misunderstand much of the first part of the novel due to a seemingly careless omission of necessary details.
If readers want to read a didactic conservative Christian teen novel, they should first read Katelynís Affection to get the full story and avoid confusion. If readers are looking for a complex, emotional story dealing with contemporary social and religious issues, they should look elsewhere.
Beth Wilcox is an English and Native Studies teacher outside of Ottawa, ON, who has her MA in Childrenís Literature from the University of British Columbia.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.