Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Format: Kindle edition
Kate Kelly has finally finished her turbulent senior year at high school - a year filled with injury, taunts of 'Jesus freak', and the loss of a best friend. To top it all off, Kate has signed up to be a counselor at church camp for the summer - something she was supposed to do with her former best friend. Needless to say, when she arrives, she is not her best self. However, a blast from the past in the form of Matt Brown signals a change in Kate's luck and things start to look up. Gradually, with the help of Matt and Parker and Will (of Stealing Parker!), Kate discovers more than she could ever imagine about faith, love and friendship.
I believe I have said it before but I really do love Miranda Kenneally's books. She has such a gentle way of exploring really big topics without preaching or judging. This is my favourite of the Hundred Oaks series because it struck a personal chord with me - I think it's hard to give a book five stars unless this happens. Kate's character goes through so much that I think will resound with many who are (or have) grown up in a devout Christian household and a predominantly Christian community. In the beginning, she is very judgemental, quite closed off and set in her ways, which makes her completely unapproachable. However, by attending a camp filled with many different types of Christians, Kate realises that at the end of the day, it's personal and just because someone doesn't believe exactly the same as you, doesn't mean they're any better or worse than you. By the end of the book, she really figures out the foundations of her beliefs and on these points she cannot be swayed but at the same time she understands that everybody else has different opinions forming their foundations. I think Kate's journey really shows that closing yourself off is not helpful to anybody - you have to be in the world, but not necessarily of it.
So, as well as dealing with faith in the 21st century, Miranda Kenneally also delicately handled the topic of guilt. Kate helped and then lost her best friend Emily over something that conflicted with her core beliefs. Even though time had passed, even though Kate wasn't the one who actually did the thing that caused this clash, she still carried with her a great burden of guilt. It dragged down her mood and made her question all of the things that were happening to her. This part of Kate's story was heartbreaking and the scene where she finally unloads her baggage is beautifully written.
I thought all of the characters were well written - perhaps with the exception of Megan, the camp leader, because it wasn't fully explained why she was so uptight but perhaps she'll turn up in another novel more fully formed? After all, I think Kate has been in the other Hundred Oaks but in the background. All of the teen voices sounded so authentic and genuine and I thought Kate's parents seemed lovely; it was nice to read about parents who only wanted the best for their daughter without any ulterior motives or suspect parenting methods.
Overall, I really loved this book. It will definitely join the small group of books I re-read on a regular basis- probably when I need a little pick me up. I'd love to read another story focused on Kate- particularly Kate at college. How do you keep that foundation during those important, formative years? I think that's a story a lot of high school seniors or freshman college students might need in their life. I also enjoyed the little bit of Greek life that cropped up now and then due to Matt's frat brothers (I miss Greek! If you're looking for a new box set and have never watched Greek, I highly recommend it). I also loved the camp setting. We don't have summer camp over here in the UK - not like in the US anyway. The closest I ever got to camp was my Summer @ Brown session (which was AWESOME) but I never did the whole cabins and s'mores and art class shebang, which I regret because my favourite television show as a child was:
Gosh, even now I'm getting a lump in my throat just thinking about the theme song!
Anyway, I recommend Things I Can't Forget to anyone who is looking for a sweet but real story about faith, first loves and good friends. Oh, and camp!