Blackston’s handling of the mechanics of novel writing are exemplary for a first book. His use of language is often striking:Exhaust fumes enveloped us and billboards hailed us, advertising everything from T-shirts to tanning oil. They were countless, colorful, and staggering in height, each straining for attention like pageant contestants with too much rouge.
The formula of a “normal guy” surrounded by an ensemble of quirky characters works well. Jay is consistently surprised by the crowd to which he has become attached—a group of unusual, well-drawn characters that engage and retain the reader’s interest. Blackston’s characterization of men tends to be stronger than his characterization of women. Allie in particular is a more convincing character in the later books of the trilogy (A Delirious Summer, 2004, and Lost in Rooville, 2005), in which her humanity is more fully developed; here, her plot role as the girl so good that Jay comes to know God through her is a bit constraining, but Blackston’s detailed characterization of men is unusually good, especially for contemporary Christian fiction, and is a welcome addition to it.
Conversion is the novel’s core concern, and Blackston handles Jay’s increasing interest in God and eventual acceptance of Christianity particularly well. There is a temptation to overdramatize a moment of such importance, but the novel shows wise restraint. The presentation of Jay’s...
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