My Thoughts: Reading a handful of complimentary reviews can entice any reader to pick up a book with an unfamiliar author’s name to its credit. That was how I become introduced to Krista McGee’s novels; fellow reviewers unknowingly prompted me to request this novel for review. Happily I am not sorry to have done so. The story of seventeen-year-old Natalia is one that will hit its mark with many teens – instead of just “another” teenage romance novel in which the characters are on the brink of falling into places they might not return from or a sordid love triangle, this one has heart (more than any novel – adult or teen – that I’ve read in a long time), and more importantly, it’s grounded in realism not fantasy. In the story, Natalia leaves behind her life in Spain to return to America with her broken-hearted stepmother – just the latest “victim” in a long line of her father’s now ex-wives. Determined to remain unattached in life so that she never follows her father’s footsteps, Natalia finds that God has other plans for her new life in Florida.
Getting right the “art” of young adult fiction is no small task in today’s culture. Teens are accustomed to “hardcore” entertainment and are hard to please with anything less. That shouldn’t be the “standard” but the exception and we should begin to look more closely at authors like Krista Mcgee for that change. Her character of Natalia is one of the most upstanding, selfless, adorable, likable, pure (both of heart, mind and body) young characters I’ve run across. Fortunately I haven’t had to deal with the sort of situations – parents, Natalia has but I felt that did nothing to hinder the plot or the level that we “connect” with her. From my reader perspective, I was able to understand her desire to want to do right and grow spiritually. Her deepest desire was to do everything opposite of the mistakes her father had made and she put in the center of that, her relationship with Christ. Right Where I Belong isn’t a story that’s “in your face” or will come across as “preachy” but it doesn’t easily let you off the hook – subtly is its strong suit and in this case, that is a compliment of the highest kind.
Between the day’s out Natalia has with her girlfriends shopping or their trips to meet teenage Christmas television stars and the scenes of Natalia and Maureen (who introduced Natalia to Christ), the book sparkles with personality. And that isn’t even mentioning the “temptation” she must convince herself is “wrong” – the cute guy she meets in pastor’s son, Brian. Each of the characters are endearing but are searching for what God wants of them. The clash of cultures was adorable; I loved “watching” Natalia learn the American lexicon of catch-phrases. Modern, fresh and a loose (but beautiful) inspiration of the story of Ruth, this is sure not to be my last and only book by the talented Krista Mcgee. Unless you are close-minded, it’s a novel that speaks to you on a level far beyond superficial.
In Summary: Bold, witty and lovable, ‘Belong’ is a book all young readers should have on their bedside table. The Christian message shines as brightly as the characters who have accepted Christ – both the “new” ones and the returning favorites.
Synopsis: After watching her father jump from one marriage to the next, Natalia has completely written off love. And when her father divorces his third wife—the only one who has been a mother to her—Natalia is ready to write him off too.
Needing a change of scenery, Natalia leaves her home in Spain and relocates with her stepmother to sun-soaked Florida. But she didn’t realize just how far a new school, a new culture, and a new lifestyle would push her out of her comfort zone.
One of her biggest surprises comes from Brian, a pastor’s son with an adorable smile, who loves God with a sincerity that astounds Natalia. She doesn’t want to fall for him, but she can’t seem to avoid him long enough to get him out of her mind.
Love is the last thing Natalia wants. Even so, God has her right where she belongs. – from the publisher
With thanks to Booksneeze and the publisher, Thomas Nelson for providing a copy of this book for reviewing purposes.