Let me preface this blog post by stating the obvious: Coming to the end of a good book is both a blessing and a curse. That said, it's a good thing this book has a sequel (although I'll have to wait until December to read it)!
Only a few short weeks ago, I happened to be flipping through the pages of BookPage magazine when I came across a young adult book called In Front of God and Everybody: Confessions of April Grace. The synopsis won me over immediately:
Growing up in the country is never easy, but it sure is interesting! Especially when your sister thinks she's glamorous, your grandma just discovered make-up, your hippie friends don't shower, and your new neighbors from the city are constantly testing your patience. That's just a regular day for April Grace! From disastrous dye jobs to forced apologies and elderly date tagalongs, life is certainly never boring. In spite of all the loony characters in her life, April Grace is able to learn from her parents as they share the love of God - to even the craziest of characters!
This book definitely came through on its promise, because it was hilarious! In Front of God and Everybody takes place in Arkansas during the summer of 1986, and is narrated by 11-year-old April Grace Reilly, who lives on a farm with her parents and older sister Myra Sue (and Grandma, who lives in a cottage across the field). The book's cast of wacky supporting characters include Grandma's suspicious new beau, Mr. Jeffrey Rance; the Reillys' hippie neighbors, Temple and Forest, who sometimes forget to bathe; and Ian and Isabel St. James, a couple of rude, snooty Californians who are trying to "get back to their roots" (well, at least Ian claims to be).
I loved April Grace's youthful curiosity and sense of adventure, and also appreciated the throwback to the 1980s. The down-home, country setting was also refreshing, giving me a glimpse into a simpler, calmer lifestyle than that of the hustle and bustle I'm accustomed to in the suburbs. Getting to know each of the characters was fun as well, and immediately found myself rooting for April Grace at every turn - whether she was coming up against her older sister's superiority complex, coming to grips with her beloved grandmother finding love (and discovering makeup!), or trying to tolerate the Reillys' new neighbors, the seemingly intolerable Ian and Isabel St. James.
And while In Front of God and Everybody is decidedly Christian and does mention things like a belief in God, prayer, and going to church within its pages, the author does a great job of weaving these elements into the story without being overly pushy. So In Front of God and Everybody will surely appeal to just about everyone because, if nothing else, it gives forth the type of universal message every parent wants their kid to learn: to treat everyone kindly and to find the good in everyone - even if they do test your patience every now and again!
My only negative opinion on this book was that I felt the Reillys' free-spirited hippie neighbors, Temple and Forest Freebird, were not mentioned enough to suit me. They seemed like such wonderful people, yet they were somewhat relegated to the background in the story.
Thankfully, this book doesn't mark the end of April Grace! The second book in the series, entitled Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks, is set for release in December 2011. Needless to say, I can't wait!
Find out more about author K.D. McCrite and the loveable April Grace Reilly at www.kdmccrite.com.