Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Sparrow Series, by Jason McIntyre

I'd heard high praise of Jason McIntyre's novels before he sent me an email and asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing his books. I always love a chance to review a book, and I'm enjoying getting to know the flavors and styles of indie authors in the homeschool community. Jason's books were no exception.

The Sparrow Found a House (The Sparrow Series #1) 
What if your new stepdad was a Bible-toting Army Sergeant? Fifteen-year-old Jessie Rivera is living every teenager's nightmare. Her widowed mom has married a man who wears his heavy Christian values like his sergeant's stripes - on both sleeves.

Glenn Sparrow is persistent, immovable, and not afraid to be firm. Worse than that, he's loving, kind - even fun - and he has Chris, Moe, and Katie completely won over.

But Jessie is determined that she won't be won over, or give up her "freedom" without a fight. She knows what she wants, and it isn't what they've got.

My Thoughts
One thing that made me really happy as I read these books is that Jason McIntire writes well. That's a good testimony in itself for indie publishing and Christian fiction. His books are easy to read, not at all clunky, and good quality narrative style. I appreciate the way he backs up his message with quality work, and definitely can't wait to see what he writes next.

What bothered me as I read was how many lifestyle choices Jason addressed as the kids came to know the Lord. After getting married, the parents talk to the kids about wise use of internet, smartphones, video games, modesty, and eventually homeschool. I thought the story might have been better served to tackle a few changes instead of so many in a fairly short book.

In spite of my struggle with the speed the family shifted their lifestyle choices, Jason did a great job in writing the perspectives of the kids as they come to terms with change. Jessie and Chris and even Sarge himself, who have wildly different personalities, come through quite authentically in their points of view. They tackle some big worldview shifts, and Jason doesn't make that switch easy or fun for all the characters. That's true to life.

I thought about this story a lot afterwards. I have the same convictions for the most part that the Sparrows did, with some different preferences on computers and city living. It's tricky to write about homeschoolers choosing to be conservative in a way that engages people outside of the conservative homeschool circle. We tend to be an exclusive set, and I'm not sure this book would give a winsome portrait to outsiders, though I do think conservative homeschoolers would enjoy relating to the characters. In the end, while it included both Gospel and good behavior, I spent more time thinking about lifestyle choices than the Gospel that was presented.

That was book one. But I'm really glad I got to read both books, because book two I really enjoyed.


Flight School (The Sparrow Series #2) 
On the verge of adult life, Chris Rivera is eager to get started on his career as a director of Christian movies. But he’ll have to do it without his best friend Ben, who has traded childhood toys for law books... and a very pretty study partner.

Meanwhile, Jessie is getting a lot of attention from conservative neighbor John and trendy friend Galen – each of whom, for drastically different reasons, seems a little too good to be true.

In the face of hard questions and big temptations, how do you know which choice is right? And where do you get the courage to make it?

My Thoughts
While I had trouble in spots enjoying book one, I enjoyed book two so much I want to re-read it. Jason's choices for his characters get knottier. His character motivations for people who live differently than the Sparrows gets more sympathetic. Teaching is more subtle, and through that, even more powerful. I learned things to apply to my own life from this book as each child struggles with their individual idols--not bad things in themselves, but things which grasped too tightly can become bad. Book two put the emphasis on how the main battle is really sin vs. Gospel, not world vs. homeschooler. I loved that focus.

Seeing Jessie and Chris and Ben grow and wrestle with adult choices about careers and relationships was well written and easier for me to relate to, as I'm at a similar stage. Jason captures his age ranges really accurately among the older and younger kids. I  also loved the way he included Katie's tender conscience. :) That's pretty easy to find in homeschool circles, and the way he wrote how family members tried to encourage and didn't know what to do by turns felt true to life. :) My main trouble in book one--seeing the people sanctify in their new-found faith too quickly--was dealt with really well in book two--as Sarge explains to Jessie that ultimately building up more rules to control your heart doesn't take care of the sin in your heart. The sin has to be dealt with at the root level. The Sparrows provide tender, Gospel-centered ministry to friends and neighbors, using the film making process to reach out to many different kinds of people. That was exciting to read about.

The climax was surprising and very believable. The characters were well-drawn, and the plotting was excellent. And the ending--satisfying, yet with some subtly written loose ends at the same time. I heartily enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it as good fictional story with a worthwhile message.

The Sparrow series #1 and #2 were given to me for free by the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. 

5 comments:

  1. Great post! One of the things I love about this blog is that I discover so many new books through it... Looks like I'll be discovering another one pretty soon!

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    1. Thanks so much, Katherine! That's what the blog is here for, and I'm so glad it's providing new titles for you! :D Hope you enjoy the Sparrow Series!

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  2. This is frankly one of the most thoughtful, insightful reviews I've read of my work. Thank you for taking the time to treat it so carefully.

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    1. A pleasure to read your work, Jason. Thanks so much for the opportunity!

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  3. Nice reviews. I read both these books a while ago, but in the wrong order. I'm currently re-reading them in the correct order. :)

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