Storyhelix Review 002: Chop, Chop!

At some point in this blog, I might have mentioned how postmodernism systematically broken down all the already fragmented pieces of meaningful life since it off-shot from modernism after WWI. Because I work in education, I can tell you that very often inspiration doesn’t strike because we have taught our children to think in compartmentalized thinking (that’s just one reason, too – postmodernism has a lot of other problems, but I digress).

I’m telling you this because I don’t understand people who don’t read different genres and different types of books. I can understand as a writer sticking to writing in a particular genre (even though I don’t want to) for marketability. But when it comes to reading, you need to explore as much diversity in your reading as you do in life.

So that brings me to my next review: Chop, Chop (Chop, Chop Series Book 1) by L. N. Cronk.

From the cover, you can tell it’s a story about friendship, loss, and faith – focusing on the Christian faith. Not everyone wants to read a Christian book; I get that, too, only I see it more in movies. As good as people say God’s Not Dead is a great movie, it still has terrible reviews and legitimate points by the movie-going community. Which, considering how big the Star Wars: The Force Awakens profit margin is, that is a lot. The arts is another area where I wish Christians would embrace more; theology and the arts can be so intimately connected.

Also looking at the cover, I know enough about sign language to tell you the hands on the front of the book cover mean “Jesus.” Later on, it also has a special connection to the storyline of the book.

The story begins with a startling event, where a boy is going to Death Row, and he is the youngest boy in forty years to get the death penalty. The narrator, David, quickly establishes his voice in the story, as he recounts growing up with his best friends, Laci, and a new friend, Greg.

He begins the story during his preschool years, mentioning how Laci, upon hearing kids with cancer don’t have hair, decides to cut off her hair, to the point where it looks like a boy’s haircut. He tells of how he “freaked out” as a little boy, and how all through elementary school and middle school he hated how short she cut her hair.

This has added significance when Laci and David meet Greg, a new student who is also the son of their new youth pastor. David initally feels wary about Greg, who fits in almost right away, but Greg quickly becomes best friends with David and Laci. One of Greg’s signature characteristics is how he uses hand signals to communicate with his friends. The titular “Chop, Chop” becomes the signal for cutting hair, as Greg decides to grow his own hair out for Lock of Love, too.

Chop Chop takes the reader through several coming of age incidents many will recognize. There are concerts, crushes, getting jobs, birthdays, holidays, career choices, and a special hat’s off to the goal-setting lesson (You know it’s fiction because the students listen well during that class) where David sits through and works on preparing for his future.

In addition to these, there are mission trips and youth group adventures many will identify with, especially if they had been raised in the church, or even those who are raising their kids in the church. Several Christians will also probably feel comfortable with the awkward stages of growing up in the faith; it is nicely placed at odds with just growing up.

I laughed through the part where David asks his family to pray differently at the dinner table, knowing all too well how out of place it feels.

True to my norm, I won’t give away the ending. Closer toward the end, something tragic happens and it will make you cry; but at the end, you will feel inspired.

One of the things I have experienced in my own life is the power of slow revelation – the idea that what you think happens is not what really happens – and when you realize the fuller story, everything changes; how the most hopeless, empty night becomes full of life and energy as the Creator declares inside the heart, “Let there be light.” I’m more than happy to see this reaffirmed.

Kudos To: 

1. Character/Plot development. As David is telling his story, he goes through many years of his life, from reaching back into high school to projecting toward the future. It’s a shorter book so I was pretty impressed at how the smoothly the plot was strung together and how deep the characters’ development went. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

2. Dialogue. Since most of the story takes place in the MG/YA years, the dialogue needs to sound like it is peeling away childhood even as it play-acts into adulthood, and Cronk does a great job at this. She smoothly captures the teenage banter, the young mind, its somewhat-haphazard way of speech. It was pretty authentic, judging from my own teenage experience.

3. Flexibility with audience: This is a good book for any age; adults will find the simplicity riddled with nostalgia and younger kids will easily understand what is happening in the book, and the implications of the events.

Why You Should Buy It: 

1. `Teaches kids the value of acting out of love and faith, including sacrificing for others who are less fortunate; Christians and non-Christians alike will be able to like David and the his friends.

2. Reminds adults of the inescapable absolutes postmodern culture routinely robs us of – the finality of life, the necessity of communication, the reality of pain, and the ultimate meanings behind what we know, see, and perceive.

*1&2 Follow-up: You don’t have to have a separate account for your Kindle reading from your kids. You will be able to read it and enjoy it with them.*

3. It’s the first in a series, and if you’re going to read the whole Chop, Chop Series , it’s best to start at the beginning.

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