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Higher up on the list of kind-of-destructive-high-school reading for me was, ironically, the pastel-colored Christian teen romance series, who saved themselves – some of them even saving their first kiss – until marriage, who never seemed to doubt God’s presence or love or providence. Every miracle they hoped for came to be…though never quite in the way they expected, and always in God’s perfect time. They, all of them, managed to stay completely sexually pure until then. I don’t believe that we should ban the “dangerous” ideas in Harris’ books any more than we should ban the “dangerous” curse words in mine. * Last year, around this time actually, I ended up having an awkward live radio conversation with Robin Jones Gunn, the author of the Christy Miller series, after an angsty article I wrote about those books went moderately viral.It was these maddeningly perfect stories of faith that I read over and over in junior high and high school and even (secretly) in college. During the conversation, Jones mentioned that she was among the first generation of Christian writers doing books for teens, and that if it doesn’t resonate, we should write our own. (It still bums me out a little that she doesn’t seem to “see” this generation of Christian young adults with all their baggage and questions and cynicism…at least not enough to do a series of books where Christy Miller turns into a tired 30-something with a lot of doubt and a thing for cabernet.) But, also, I think there’s something to it.I hope we don’t stop at the anger, at the reflexive response, at the rage. The book sold more than a million copies and some Christians followed it almost as if it were gospel.But there are also books that deal with divorce and mental illness and loneliness and suicide and pain and fear and love and sex in healthy, nuanced ways. There is room for a new generation of writers to write complex and hopeful books about dating and sex and love and faith and adolescence. There is room for new novels, new work around the theme of pursuing a faith life not only as a teenager…but also as an adult.
And yet, also, we can never be entirely sure that we’re doing it right. There is is still there, though now in three hardcover volumes instead of 12 thin paperbacks.But now, as I’m newly without small children and thinking about what my next writing work might be, I’m haunted by that book.Not the content itself anymore…but the fact that someone who was clearly trying to be true to their faith perspective and obedient to their calling – someone who truly and deeply loved God – could write a book that detonated like a landmine and caused so much harm to an entire generation.This book would go on to be an international bestseller and catapult its unsuspecting author, Joshua Harris, into the Christian spotlight.“turned the Christian singles scene upside down” and continues to shape the consciousness of how Christians view singleness, dating and the roadmap to marriage.