Friday, 28 January 2011

Found in Translation - Roger & Kristi Rae Bruner

When Kim Hartlinger—eighteen and spoiled—arrives on a mission trip to Mexico and discovers, to her chagrin, that she’ll be doing construction in a remote village without plumbing and electricity, rather than evangelism in a medium-sized town with a fast food joint . . she has only two choices. “Rough it” (which isn’t exactly what Kim had in mind when she signed up for this trip) or turn around and head home.

Will Kim be able to touch the villagers’ hearts with the Gospel? Or will her time in Mexico be up before she gets the chance?

Pampered Kim Hartlinger is in for the shock of her life when she arrives at her mission trip in Mexico with several suitcases full of designer clothes and a karaoke machine. Convinced that she's going to single-handedly convert everyone she meets with the help of her Spanish-English Bible, Kim sees the trip as an easy alternative to getting a summer job. But before she can unpack her Gucci loafers, she's informed that she's forgotten to read a very important email - the one telling her that the trip has changed, and that she'll now be building houses in an isolated village with no running water, let alone a fast-food joint. To make matters worse, the natives don't speak any English and the team is without a translator, so Kim's going to have a hard time bringing the villagers to the Lord. Could God really have a reason for bringing her to this desolated part of Mexico?

Although reading YA fiction when you're no longer a teenager is  incredibly popular right now, I've never really seen the appeal. Being nineteen myself, I often cringe at the behaviour of characters who are meant to be the same age as me, and this was my problem with Kim. It took me a while to warm up to her, but by the end of the novel I could appreciate why teenagers would enjoy her story, even if I’m still nowhere close to being a YA fanatic.

Kim makes a bad first impression on most of her mission buddies, with the exception of stereotypical black girl #492, Aleesha. I say this because she really is a walking stereotype. I found her amusing for a few pages, but Kim and Aleesha’s constant banter of “Do all black people do X?” and “Can white girls really do that?” got annoying very quickly. Of course, Aleesha has attitude, is excellent at preaching, a great hairstylist, loves to sing...and her name is Aleesha. Just once, I’d love to see a black YA character called Sarah who wants to be a lawyer. Thankfully Aleesha was replaced as Kim’s sidekick by the adorable Anjelita, who is shunned by the other local kids for having been born with a deformity. Anjelita made this book a lot more enjoyable to read, and it was lovely to witness Kim becoming more responsible by caring for her new friend and finding ways to involve her in restoring the village. 

Although she spends most of her time litter-picking with Anjelita, Kim does get a few chances to witness to people. Firstly, she meets typical bad-boy, Geoff, who constantly flirts with Kim and doesn’t seem to care about the mission trip. It turns out that Geoff is only pretending to be a Christian, so Kim decides to show him the truth about God’s love. After a surprisingly short amount of time, Geoff has a complete turnaround in character. While I initially liked this plot-line, Geoff’s transformation was a bit unbelievable, and I felt it gave the wrong image to teenage girls about how easy it is to change a bad-boy into a Christian. Especially as Kim immediately becomes attracted to Geoff after he’s committed his life to Jesus. 

I much preferred Kim’s second attempt at evangelism, which comes about after she discovers that her Spanish-English Bible is actually only in Spanish. Kim prays and relents to God about how her Bible is useless, but then feels him calling her to read the Bible to the villagers. Despite her atrocious Spanish, the locals become interested in her story sessions. Unfortunately, Kim has to leave before she can see the true affects of her Bible-readings, but I felt this was a good lesson in sowing seeds of faith but not always seeing how you’ve affected people. 

As I said before, I’m clearly not the target audience for this book. I might have appreciated this when I was younger, although I’m not entirely sure how my gothic, teenage self would have reacted to spoilt, designer-clad Kim. I think a lot of girls would get annoyed with Kim initially, but hopefully grow to like her as the novel progresses. To be honest, the perfect audience for Found in Translation is girls like Kim – those who are materialistic and forget to put God first in their lives. I think this book could really speak to these girls and hopefully have a impact on them. And of course, I reckon that this series is going to encourage more young people to go on mission trips – and to remind them that building houses and picking up litter are just as important as preaching the gospel. 7/10

Found in Translation is already available in stores and online. The sequel, Lost in Dreams, is due for publication in August 2011.

Many thanks to Barbour and NetGalley for giving me the chance to read and review this book.

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