This contemporary book is the first in the "Bad Ideas" series by Todd and Jedd Hafer and is published by NavPress.
Bad Idea: a novel with coyotes is written for teens. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Eighteen-year-old Griff is on a road trip with his dad, best friend, kid brother and his dad's very young fiancée. From Kansas to California, every stop along the way is an opportunity for the unraveling of relationships and witty, candid insight into Griffin's inner struggles with faith, self-abuse, family problems, death and girls. Though Griff is college-bound, his narration bounces from the present to events during his formative years.
Forgiveness is central as each member of the group is forced to forgive or be forgiven and more firmly grasp the concept of grace. Griffin's dad is a Christian, who models a prayer life and reliance on Jesus. Griff's high school friend Amanda is the most mature Christian in the story. Her faith manifests itself in her friendship with Griffin as she supports him through his parents' divorce, prays for him, publicly defends the name of Jesus and honors her parents. Griff straddles Christianity and a sinful life. He has a sincere belief, yet struggles to overcome harmful behaviors. His discovery of a dead body helps him recognize that earnest prayer has no pretense. The road trip covers more than asphalt as the reader experiences Griff's painstaking faith journey. In the final analysis, he realizes that God has a hold on him in spite of his many shortcomings.
Bryant, Griffin's dad, is caring, patient and forgiving (to a fault). He loses his grip on parenting as he goes through depression following his divorce. Bryant's engagement to Rhonda, 18 years younger, raises questions as her immature character is revealed. She is ill-prepared to assume the role of step-mother and unaware of her effect on teen boys as she walks around their apartment and pool area in a bikini. At one point, she is caught kissing Griffin's best friend. Griff's mother, Lynette, becomes involved in adultery and abandons the family for another man. She later apologizes to Griff for her failure as a mother. Bryant's fiancée, Rhonda, only 10 years older than Griff, talks hip-hop when she converses with Griff, which generates a sense of insincerity. She confesses to Griff that she used Cole as a test to determine whether young men were still attracted her and whether she truly is prepared to marry a man 18 years her senior. She asks forgiveness of everyone for her behavior with Cole.
Other Belief Systems
A couple of references to Star Wars' Jedi mind tricks, Yoda and the Force are used as a humor device.
There are several uses of the word crap. Griff's mother throws glass plates when she and Bryant fight. Cole beats up two attackers and thinks he broke the eye socket of one. In an imaginary scene, Robin (of Batman and Robin) says he was in a gay bar and was hit on so much that he later had to take a shower. Griff threatens to cut off his legs and use his bloody stumps as transport to get across his message that he wants to get over the state line the same day. Bryant delivers a hard punch to his son's shoulder when Griff defines Rhonda's behavior as ho-baggity. A car runs over a puppy, killing it, and its intestines spill out.
Griff imagines Amanda kissing him. Rhonda, Bryant's attractive fiancée, wears a bikini at the pool and parades around the Smith's apartment in it, making Griff wish for summer's end, along with his feelings of embarrassment and sexual tension. Griff becomes self-conscious about using the bathroom ("peeing") and releasing gas because of Rhonda's presence. She announces to her four male traveling companions that "it's that time of the month." At a homecoming dance, one of the boys grinds on a girl who is drunk and invites Griff to make a sandwich of the girl with him. Griff declines, saying "I'm not going to help you treat your girlfriend like a piece of meat." Then he flips him off. Cole searches for cheerleaders to make out with after admonishing Griff not to flip off somebody when wearing a WWJD band. Griff sees Cole kissing Rhonda in his and Cole's motel room. Griff regretfully recalls spending two hours with a high school girl in his bedroom, giving her a hickey by her belly ring. He has been sexually active with her more than once. He is disappointed that his dad doesn't supervise him and reasons that God and his dad don't love or care about him. Griff finds himself lusting after a cover model on an abstinence book. In an imaginary scene, Griff imagines a version of hell where a dyslexic has to play Wheel of Fortune and if the dyslexic loses, his private parts will be chopped. Lynette's stepson, Dalton, has posters of women wearing bikinis or less in his bedroom and a sign above them that reads: Ban the objectification of women. The posters came from Dalton's dad, who subscribes to soft-porn magazines. Griff mentally, and repeatedly, admonishes himself not to look at a girl's breasts while she's talking to him.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Griff has a lot of problems. What do you think would have happened if Griff had communicated some of his issues to his dad?
Do you think his dad would have understood if, for example, Griff told him how much he was bothered by the way Rhonda talked and dressed?
- Counselors often say that sarcasm is a sign of anger. Do you think this is true in Griff's case?
Cite some instances from the story where this might be true.
- When life seems hopeless to you, what are some healthy ways to cope?
What are some things that feel beyond your control?
How do you react to these negative events?
How do they affect your life?
- In the face of overwhelming problems, what are some choices Griff could have made that would have diminished the effect of his problems?
How mature is Griff?
Is Griff mature enough to make better choices? Give an example.
- How is Amanda different than Griff?
Do you admire Amanda for her strength or does she act self-righteous?
What would you do in her place?
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