This teen chick-lit book is the second in the "Carter House Girls" series by Wendy Lawton and is published by Zondervan.
Stealing Bradford is written for kids ages 13 to 16. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
The "Carter House Girls" series centers on a boarding house run by a former supermodel, Mrs. Carter. The house is home to teen girls who are interested in fashion and modeling. Among the residents is DJ, Mrs. Carter's granddaughter. As a new Christian, DJ struggles with finding her identity in Christ, understanding what it really means to be a Christian and why so many Christians do un-Christian things, and making biblically based decisions.
Another girl in the house, Rhiannon, loses her boyfriend, Bradford. He breaks up with her so he can date a different Carter House girl, Taylor. This sends the house in an uproar. Because Rhiannon and Taylor are roommates, DJ offers to trade rooms with Rhiannon. Although Taylor and DJ do not get along, DJ begins to sympathize with her former nemesis.
Doctored Internet photos of Taylor devastate her and prompt Taylor to run away. Meanwhile, the other girls at Carter House realize how much they actually care about Taylor and do something they have never done together — pray for her safe return.
DJ is open about her new decision to follow Christ, and she and her friend Rhiannon discuss matters of faith. Rhiannon teaches DJ that the purpose of prayer is not to tell God what to do, but to get closer to Him. DJ takes a Bible that once belonged to her mother and begins to read and apply what she has read. DJ prays frequently, and she is surprised at how praying changes the way she sees things. DJ encourages the girls of Carter House to gather together in prayer for Taylor, and she is moved by how prayer bonds the girls together. DJ also begins visiting a youth group and a church with Rhiannon, and DJ even asks her boyfriend Connor if he would join her.
DJ learns that being a Christian does not make a person perfect, and knowledge of the faith is more complicated than she thought. Her boyfriend Connor identifies himself as a Christian, but no longer attends church because his family's pastor had an affair. Casey, the outcast of the Carter House girls, has been reared in a Christian home, yet posts scandalous, doctored photos of Taylor online.
Taylor knows a lot of Bible verses, but does not live according to them. DJ sees that there is more to being a Christian than saying a prayer and reading the Bible.
The main authority figure in the book is Mrs. Carter, who runs the boarding house. Mrs. Carter is tied to her schedule of naps and dating "the general" than she is to the girls' lives. However, she does clearly state her expectations of their behavior, curfew and other boundaries. The girls have a moderate respect for the rules of the house, but Taylor does not feel guilty about breaking curfew. More importantly, Mrs. Carter offers the girls no closeness or mentorship to go with her rules.
Other Belief Systems
The words crap and h---hole are used.
Taylor and Bradford are caught in the back room of his mother's art museum. Some of the girls say they were "doing it," but Taylor insists it was just a heavy make-out session. She adds that if they had not been interrupted, it might have gone farther, although she did not think having sex in the back room of a museum would have been a good idea. She later tells DJ that she wants a boyfriend who is interested in her mind, not just interested in her for sex. There is a brief scene where Taylor is in her bra in front of DJ, and DJ wonders if Taylor has implants beneath her lacy bra.
The kids at school believe that the girls P.E. coach is a lesbian and make jokes — using the word dyke — about it. DJ is teased because the coach likes her, and other girls claim that the coach stares at them and that they are uncomfortable in the showers. Similarly, when DJ hugs Casey at school, others call them lesbians and dykes.
Casey posts altered photos online that look like Taylor is making out and being provocative with other girls. She then makes this information public for the whole school to talk about the pictures. There is a brief conversation about whether Taylor is bisexual.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- In which of her actions is DJ conscientious about her decision to follow Christ?
How has being a Christian changed her?
If you have made the same decision, how did Christ change you?
- The Bible says that "iron sharpens iron."
Who is DJ's iron?
Why is it important to have other Christian friends?
- What does the Bible teach about homosexuality?
What does the Bible teach about how you should treat others?
Which girls in the book handled the situation with their PE teacher the best from a biblical perspective?
- How does Taylor react to the online photos?
How does she react to what kids at school are saying about her?
Read 1 Timothy 6:20.
How does this Scripture relate to what happened to Taylor?
When something like this happens at your school, how will you choose to react?
- Rhiannon points DJ to Matthew 5:43-44.
What does this Scripture ask those who follow Christ to do?
How does DJ do this?
Is there anyone in your life you find difficult to love?
What makes this person hard to get along with?
What role can you take in reaching out to this person with God's love?
- How does DJ feel about Conner?
What messed up things in their relationship?
How does going too far physically with a boyfriend or girlfriend change the relationship?
- How does Rhiannon notice that God is changing DJ and working in her?
Has anyone ever noticed that about you?
Have you noticed that about other people?
What is one thing that makes it clear that God is at work in a person's life?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.