Author: Lindsay Schuster
Genre: Young Adult / Christian Fiction / Coming of Age
Prosper tells the story of four friends and how they help each other through their high school difficulties. Each girl comes from a troubled background—recovering from a tragic accident, growing up with an addicted single mother, an abusive father, or a household where the mom walked out on the family—and faces challenges to her self esteem and overall well-being over the course of the book.
The narration is realistic, focusing far more on the troubles teenagers face while in high school than on what they’re actually in high school to learn, which can be an effective reminder of how emotionally charged such a time can be. There are moments when it feels like it’s pointedly showing readers what it’s like to live through high school, though a young adult audience will undoubtedly enjoy the coming-of-age elements and how relatable aspects of the book are to what they’re experiencing.
The characters started out feeling a bit like stereotypes—the helpful friend, the troublemaker, the girl in a bad relationship, the girl who doesn’t want a relationship—but over the course of the book, they deepened and developed into more vibrant personalities with definite flaws and emotional burdens they are learning to handle. The fact that all four of them discover they need Jesus’s help to get through what they’re facing can feel a bit contrived to those outside the Christian fiction genre, but this seems to fit with the author’s vision for the story.
Since the Christian element doesn’t show up until late in the novel, some readers might find this component unexpected, so perhaps indicating how vital this aspect is on a more frequent basis might help that topic feel less abrupt when it suddenly becomes the focus of all four girls’ storylines toward the climax of the book.
The characters themselves have a fair amount of representation, featuring a varied group from different backgrounds. Still, all the characters face horrendous difficulties, and while the one who is Christian had the healthiest family life, she’s struggling alongside her friends through the entire book, just like they are.
One of the best aspects of this story is how even the minor characters get a chance to show their strengths and weaknesses, to where the author stays away from melodrama. Each person is complex and messy, making for a compelling story of life and how to deal with the unfair and disappointing aspects everyone faces at some point.
Perfect for readers who like believable novels that focus on characters who love each other but don’t know how to deal with life, this book presents a lovable cast who face horrible circumstances with strength, courage, and eventually hope. Readers who enjoy stories of transformation and family dramas will be drawn to this tale, with its balanced look at each girl’s story and how it shows their families’ part in those stories, to where the girls aren’t isolated but viewed as part of a larger whole—a family that goes beyond blood ties to include the four inseparable friends.
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