“Virtue demands courage, constant effort, and above all, help from on high.”–Saint John Marie Vianney
Review and Comments
Leslea Wahl has once again written a novel that will carry her readers on an exciting adventure as her two main characters, Sophie and Jake, try to solve a new mystery. Wahl’s novels have never failed to entertain their audiences with danger, intrigue, and budding romances, but this novel presents new challenges. Unlike her other novels, this book doesn’t have two people getting to know one another, it has a couple who has to work against odds to stay together.
Jake and Sophie are both at the winter games as Jake prepares to compete. Sophie has been given an opportunity as an apprentice journalist and her task is to write about Jake. As the story progresses, however, more and more competitors are getting hurt. Through some investigative work, the two figure out that there must be someone out to get the different competitors; to either hurt them or disqualify them from competition. While it’s fun for the two to be together on this adventure together, relationship issues ensue.
In this modern, throw-away culture we live in, it’s easy for people to quit relationships when they get difficult. Sophie really struggles with Jake’s fame and the constant flow of girls who surround him, and Jake struggles with trying to make her comfortable.
The relationship issues in this book are tough, but what makes it so important for young people to read is that they really strive for that Christian/Catholic ideal. They know that they don’t want to compromise morals. They say short little prayers for each other. They hold each other accountable for their decisions. I’m not saying that they have a perfect relationship because jealousy, anger, poor communication, and frustration definitely seems to be breaking them apart, but when things get tough, they find each other again in front of a crucifix. Sophie knows where to find Jake and when she sees him, there he is staring at Jesus’s body on the cross, uniting his own suffering with Our Lord’s. Sophie stays with him as he prays and together, their relationship grows.
This scene in the book is one of the most beautiful portrayals of relationship in Leslea Wahl’s novels so far. I think it’s so critical that these types of scenarios play out in more teen books. Instead of loose morals or betrayal or revenge or the feeling of helplessness, they find safety and security in the cross, in Jesus himself. And you know what? This isn’t too far out of reach for teens today. Most people just don’t expect this of them. So thank you, Leslea Wahl, for giving us characters of esteem and faith for our young people to follow. Thank you for not making prayer seem weird or out of place. Thank you for your entertaining books and intriguing mysteries. Each book you write is a wonderful witness for young people.
General Teaching Resources
- Characterization is important in Extreme Blindside. You can use this great bundle to help with character analysis from Bespoke ELA.
- Create a character sketch that you could use in your own piece of Catholic fiction. You can use this template from Columbia Fiction Foundry.
- Write a Found Poem from the novel that demonstrates Catholic teen courage for our broken world today. Use the instructions from Read Write Think to help.
- Read “An Introduction to the Real Gentleman” from the LifeTeen.com site. Guys, can you see yourself as a gentleman? If not, how might you improve? Girls, do you look for a gentleman in a mate? How can you help your male friends in their efforts to be gentlemen?
- Read “Catholic Dating 101” from LifeTeen.com. Reflect on what it says.
- Read about these 8 saints for your relationships.
- Read about Saint Sebastian who is the patron saint of sports.
- Read Leslea Wahl’s other books!