Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Learning" Review

Learning by Karen Kingsbury was sent to me as a review copy by Zondervan Publishing. It is the second in the Bailey Flanigan series by this author.

In Leaving (the first novel in this series…you can read my review on my blog here), Bailey sets off for New York City to be part of the cast of Hairspray on Broadway. Cody Coleman (Bailey’s former boyfriend) is the new coach of the Lyle High School football team, and his friend, Cheyenne, has just been in a car accident and is in a coma. Before she leaves, Bailey visits Cody at the hospital (where he is sitting by Cheyenne’s bedside) to basically tell him that their relationship is over for good, even as friends.

We join Bailey and Cody where the previous book left off, Bailey starting her life in NYC, and Cody dealing with Cheyenne’s coma. From there, we witness the next few months of their lives.

Bailey settles into her life on Broadway, but everything is not as good as it could be. Most of the cast feels she only got the part because of her previous movie role, and she struggles to keep up with the pace of the show. She also feels ostracized from the rest of the cast because of her Christian faith. However, Brandon Paul (the actor who was in the movie with Bailey) makes his way to NYC whenever he can, and Bailey is drawn to him much more than she thought she would be, maybe even as more than friends.

Cody is determined to turn the football program at Lyle High around, and he feels the best way to do this is to meet the players where they are, not just on the field, but off of it as well. During Cheyenne’s recovery, his feelings for her grow every day. But still he thinks about Bailey and what they might have had together.

As Cody and Bailey spend time apart, they each grow closer to another. And they realize they have a lot of learning to do in the process.

Even though I have been a fan of Christian fiction for a long time, this is only the second Karen Kingsbury novel that I have read (Leaving being the first). I usually stick to historical fiction rather than contemporary, so that is why Karen Kingsbury and I have never really crossed paths, book-wise. However, so many ladies I know enjoy Karen Kingsbury books that I thought I would give this series a try.

I will say that I enjoyed this novel more than the previous one. In Leaving, Bailey appeared so perfect that she seemed to be right out of a fairy tale. In Learning, she finally seems to struggle with things that the rest of us come in contact with every day in the ‘real world.’ Bailey finds herself in the midst of a world (the theater and Broadway) that does not look kindly on Christians, and she must decide how she is going to react.

However, the way she handled this situation was sorely lacking, in my opinion. I won’t go into too much detail about it, since that is a big part of the story, but I was just disappointed that she chose to go the route that she did. I guess you could say that she stood up for her faith, but it seemed as if she could have done things differently. Jesus served and loved those who were looked down upon by society. He formed relationships with them. He didn’t just preach to them, he met them where they were. But, I will say that the author did handle some touchy issues well during these scenes with Bailey and her cast-mates.

On the other hand, I enjoyed Cody’s story in this book a lot. I love football, so that helped me enjoy that part of the story even more. But what I really liked was how he took the time to care about his team and to get to know them as individuals instead of just as football players. He invested in their lives, and they were able to see Jesus shine through him. You can kind of see where the story is going in relation to the football games, but it was still a fun ride.

(One thing I have to mention, though, is that during the part where the team goes to football camp, they visit Butler University in Indiana. Butler is described by the author as being a beautiful campus that is far enough outside Indianapolis to be surrounded by cornfields. Now, I have never actually walked on Butler’s campus, only driven by it, and it is pretty, but it is not rural, it is near downtown Indianapolis. I live in Indiana. You have to get pretty far outside of Indianapolis before you start seeing cornfields again. I don’t mind authors taking some poetic license when it comes to descriptions, but this was too much. If you use a real place, make it real, please. Don’t upset your Indiana readers by saying something that is incorrect.)

I could go on and on for several pages (and not in a good way) about the romantic part of this story. "But, no, there is too much. Let me sum up." (*Gold star to anyone who can identify where that quote comes from!*) Cody and Bailey both still have feelings for each other and think about each other all the time. However, they have started friendships (or more-than-friendships) with Cheyenne (for Cody) and Brandon (for Bailey). It is already getting tiring, and we are just on the second book out of four in this series. It even at times feels as if these characters are in Junior High. (Bailey actually spends lots of time ‘stalking’ Cody on Facebook). I felt so sorry for Brandon through the whole thing because Bailey is obviously using him so that she doesn’t spend her time thinking about Cody. Maybe I am just past the point in my life where I can read books about people in their early twenties. Or maybe Cody and Bailey need to just have a long conversation and decide like adults whether they are going to be together or not. (I know, I know, these are just characters in a book. But it just feels as if time is being wasted by draging this plot out over four books).

I didn’t even include the story of Ashley and Landon in my description of this book because it seems so out of place. I think the only reason it is included is so that the Baxter family (the extended family that many other Karen Kingsbury novels have been about) will be represented.

I enjoyed this second title in the Bailey Flanigan series more than the first, especially Cody’s relationship with the guys on his football team. But the rest of the plot is the same thing that has been told in previous books. If you are a fan of Karen Kingsbury, you will enjoy the continuing saga. If you are new to this author, I advise starting at the very beginning with the “Redemption” series.

I will give Learning by Karen Kingsbury ... 2 ½ BookWorms.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received this book free from Zondervan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this is accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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