Series: The Most Important Ingredient

Introduction

Hey all! I was chatting with a writing friend today and got a great blog idea from her. Instead of doing an article on writing today, this is the beginning article of a series on reading and the most important thing to do when you read: discern.

Discern is kinda a big word. According to the dictionary, to discern is to “to come to know or recognize mentally” (source: Miriam-Webster Dictionary). As you read, you need to “come to know” or “recognize mentally” the messages and ideas being fed into your head. When you read you open up yourself to a lot of different ideas. Some of the most sound advice I’ve ever heard is to “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Your heart (meaning the emotional seat of your whole being) is a valuable and deceitful thing you need to keep an eye on. So the more you fill your head with trash and the more you let it enter your heart, the less valuable and more deceitful it will be.

Okay. So what am I getting at?

I guess a good thing to take away from this is don’t read/watch/listen to junk. You think that’d be easy. 😆

“So, Joelle,” you say, “you’re rambling. Can you tell me clearly and concisely where you’re going with this?”

Easy. Welcome to a series on discernment.

Yes, you’re probably going to get preached at. Yes, you’re probably going to end up yawning. Yes, I’m probably going to end up getting more than a little worked up. But if this can help anyone out there put down a book that’s going to make their thought/emotional life tumultuous, HOORAY!

Here’s how this is going to work. I’m going to put out a post every Monday focusing on a specific popular book/movie that I’ve read/watched. I’ll kind of do a review of it, except I won’t be focusing on the characters and plot as much as I’m going to focus on content, messages, and morals – the things I’ve discerned from said book/movie. Hopefully by the end of the series you’ll be subconsciously looking for stuff like this and able to pick it out of stories. From there you’ll find it a lot easier to ingrain good themes and whatnot into your own stories. Yay!

Sound boring? What if I told you I’m gonna do one on Lord of the Rings? *cackles*

Anywho, I have no clue how long this series will last. Let me know if you start to get bored with it, or if you have a specific book/movie you’d like analyzed.

For now, y’all are stuck with a gihugicly long post (yes, gihugic is a word – look it up!!) that includes both the introduction (ahem, this and everything before) and an analysis of the first book/movie.

“Which one is that?” you ask.

Hm. How much can I draw out this suspense?

(Warning: I’m in a mischievous mood.)

(Which means lots of dots.)

(And parentheses.)

(While I figure out how long I can stall.)

(…)

(*thinks of something else to say*)

Okay, okay. This first book is… *waits for drumroll*

Keeper of the Lost Cities by Shannon Messenger

(Also, there might maybe be spoilers in here. So beware. I’ll make sure the spoilers are alerted, but just sayin’.😉)

I’ve got to say that I am a fan of KOTLC. I enjoy Messenger’s unpredictable plots, her realistic characters, and her writing style. Most of the books are clean as far as content goes – which, if you ask me, is pretty much impossible to find anywhere. Kudos to her!!

And now we get to the juicy stuff. This is in a pretty simple format – a list of pros and cons I’ve noticed and compiled. For you skimmers I’ll give you a summary of this Gihugic Post and maybe some homework… *another evil cackle*

Content

Pros:

  1. Clean language
  2. Non-graphic
  3. No other religions

Cons:

  1. Some kissing, crushes, and not-so-Christian dating
  2. No mentions of God
Messages

Pros:

  1. Be loyal to your friends
  2. Teamwork is better than a one-man-show
  3. There is a time for action and a time for thought
  4. Violence isn’t always the answer
  5. Messenger talks a lot about how the elves don’t discriminate by skin color or handicaps. But instead the elves discriminate via abilities (basically superpowers). Messenger casts this in a negative light, implying that racism and whatnot isn’t exactly admirable. Like at all. *applauds*

Cons:

  1. You are all-powerful. Believe in yourself and you will get anywhere you need to.
  2. A few times where “follow your heart” seems promoted, although Messenger also seems to think that there’s a time to turn the heart off and use your brain (which I applaud)
  3. The ends justify the means
Morals

Pros:

  1. (SPOILER!) Keefe is willing to let his love, Sophie, date another guy (his best bud) so that she will be happy. He doesn’t push his own agenda. (END SPOILER)
  2. Fitz struggles with anger issues the whole series. As far as I can remember, each time he loses his temper is seen in a negative light and he is forced to deal with the consequences.
  3. Various characters deal with grief throughout the story. Most of them handle it well, modeling the way we should view loss. Unfortunately, loss (death, especially) isn’t seen in a very religious light. More on that later.
  4. Virtues are praised. Courage, sacrifice, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and humility all have a positive spotlight. As such I find some of the characters worthy role-models. (Yay!)

Cons:

  1. As already mentioned, some of the characters date. So far no one’s really crossed any gihugicly (can you tell I love this word?!?) big boundaries, but the daters definitely lean towards a more worldly kind of relationship. Their attraction is primarily physical and characters kiss multiple times, which some parents are good with and some are not. Depending on your convictions, this may or may not be a big deal.
  2. Several characters disobey and rebel against their authorities (parental, governmental, etc). While sometimes punished, most of the time the authority is like, “Oh, you did that because of that? That makes it fine! Good job!” I repeat: this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the defiant peeps are punished.
  3. (SPOILERS!!) When a few characters die, nothing eternal is mentioned. The elves have a ritual for their dead which borders on religious if you squint at it right, but mostly it’s just a cultural burial. Messenger’s characters (all of them) seem to believe that there is no afterlife – that death is the final door. As a result most of the deaths/losses are sad and hopeless. Messenger goes with a few sacrificial “don’t be sad for me” deaths (ahem, Mr. Errol Loki), but honestly, they just seemed cheesy. Personally, I enjoy deaths where the characters grieve but rejoice, knowing their friend/family member is in a place much happier than any on earth. Because of this view Messenger’s deaths seemed lacking. (END SPOILER)

Neutral:

  1. Keeping with the religious flow, nothing religious is ever mentioned, other than maybe a couple off-handed comments about human religions I didn’t pick up on. This is both good and bad – there are few Biblical ideas, but also really no Hindu, Budhist, Islamic, or any other kind of religious theology. KOTLC is pretty neutral in these areas.
Wrap Up

All in all, here’s the bottom line on KOTLC: Messenger did a great job with making her books unique. The plot is amazing, the characters real, and according to these lists more than half of her moral points and whatnot are positive. I gotta say that the thing that disappointed me most about these books was that she went for the whole “believe in yourself” nonsense.

*holds rant in*

*bites lip*

*explodes*

Just gonna splurge here for a minute: y’all, you are NOT perfect. You are going to make mistakes. You cannot jump off a cliff and fly just because you believe you can. God is the only one you should rely on ’cause, guess what, you’re gonna fail yourself. You’re going to tell yourself you can do this or that and then find out you can’t. You are not powerful enough to be fully reliable. Sometimes you can’t even be there for yourself (I know that sounds weird). But God can. He is. So… just trust him, not you, okay?

Anywho, moving on.

What about you? What are some common themes you’ve seen in books/movies? What themes do you want to see more or less of?

Also, what do you think of KOTLC? How did you like the format of this post? Should I do it differently? What book/movie should I do next?

So that’s all that I can think of right now. XD Let me know if you noticed other stuff in the books! I also happen to know some of you will probably disagree with me on some things, so feel free to debate with me in the comments (but let’s keep it civil)!

Anyway, pursue God, be courageous, and don’t forget to smile!

(P.S. Thanks to Catherine the Thwapling for the idea…😉)

Published by Joelle Stone

Joelle is a Christian writer living in rural America with the dream of someday saving the world. She has several pets and way too much weirdness for anyone to handle for long. When she's not writing, she enjoy taking long walks, hanging out with friends online and in person, playing unprofessional volleyball, reading, and riding. (She is also a sworn enemy of coffee. You have been warned.)

23 thoughts on “Series: The Most Important Ingredient

  1. Hello there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this article to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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