A book review for parents
This Christian suspense book, the first in "The Rayne Tour" series, by Brandilyn and Amberly Collins is published by Zondervan.
Always Watching is written for teens ages 13 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Sixteen-year-old Shaley O'Connor's life is filled with bodyguards, paparazzi and excitement. Her mother is a famous singer, and Rayne, her popular rock band, is named after her. Shaley's world changes when she discovers Tom Hutchens, the band's stylist, murdered in a dressing room. After the murder, an anonymous sender leaves her a white rose, symbolic of the love once shared between Shaley's mother and the father she never knew. Len Torret, a photographer willing to do anything for a story, slips a picture of Shaley in Shaley's purse. On the back of it is written the message “Always Watching.” Shaley becomes convinced that Len is stalking her, especially after he pulls the hotel fire alarm and stages an evacuation in order to capture Shaley on camera. Though Len is arrested, soon he is released. The band then travels to Denver, and in the hours before the band's next concert, the case takes a dangerous turn. When one of Shaley's bodyguards, Bruce, is killed in the hallway outside of her hotel room, she sees the other bodyguard, Wendell, with blood on his hands, and she tries to escape from him. Jerry Brand, one of the band's bus drivers, rescues her by pulling her into a storage closet. Just when Shaley thinks she's safe, Jerry pulls a gun on her and admits to the murders of Tom and Bruce. Sent by an unnamed source and motivated by jealousy, he eliminated anyone who got too close to Shaley. Wendell, who it turns out had tried to save Bruce's life, arrives with the police. In the struggle that ensues, Jerry is shot, and with his dying breath, he tells Shaley he was, in fact, sent by her father.
Shaley and Rayne are not believers. However, Shaley has a clear sense that she is missing something valuable in her life. Carly Sanders, one of the band's back-up singers, is a Christian. She is a solid lifeline in the midst of the tragedy, offering prayer and comfort when Shaley is on the brink of despair. Carly speaks openly with Shaley about her Father in heaven and assures Shaley that she is not alone in her grief. Shaley asks why bad things happen, and Carly admits that she doesn't know everything. Instead, she shares her own story of redemption and encourages Shaley to rely on God for strength. Although Shaley does not immediately accept God's salvation, Carly's gentle and persistent faith stirs her to contemplate the truth behind the claims of Christianity.
Shaley's mother is a rock star. Her busy schedule prevents her from spending adequate time with her daughter. However, in those rare moments together, Rayne proves herself to be a loving mother. Shaley doesn't know her father, who left before she was born, or why he left. Rayne keeps that part of her past a secret from her daughter. Shaley relies on the other adults in her life, such as the band members and tour manager, for advice. In particular, she looks to Carly, who lavishes her with the love of Christ. After Tom is murdered, Shaley depends on her bodyguards for protection and safety. The group also puts immense trust in the police to bring the culprit to justice. Shaley feels betrayed when Jerry Brand reveals he is the murderer.
Other Belief Systems
Rayne and the rest of the band look to fame and publicity as their source of happiness.
The book avoids profanity, although the derogatory phrases stupid child and shut up appear once. Scum is used to describe the paparazzi.
There are some frightening images in the novel. Shaley discovers Tom's bloody body and sees that his face has been horribly disfigured by the gunshot. The paparazzi are somewhat violent at times, especially during a scene in the mall when they demonstrate what they'll do to get a good photograph. In Denver, Shaley is recuperating in a hotel room when Bruce is shot. She discovers him with a gaping wound in his chest and kneels beside him as he dies. Later, she sees Wendell, his hands covered in Bruce's blood. She is taken hostage by Jerry, who wields a gun and threatens to kill her. He is shot by police in a short, yet violent rescue.
Shaley's mother, Rayne, was pregnant with Shaley at age 17.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What is Shaley's life like as the daughter of a rock star?
How isn't it as glamorous as it appears?
- What does Shaley say she wants most from her mother?
Where else does she look to find love?
How does Carly explain God's love to her?
- What kind of secrets does Rayne keep from her daughter?
How do you think that makes Shaley feel?
What secret has been kept from you?
What secret have you kept from someone else?
- How does Shaley react to losing three of her friends in 24 hours?
What does she learn about the fragility of life?
How does this realization change her?
What does God's Word say about mortality?
How can we be assured about where our spirits go when we die?
- What lesson does Shaley learn about trusting others?
How do you feel when you are betrayed by someone you trust?
Whom does the Bible say you can trust?
How have you experienced God's faithfulness in your life?
- What did Jerry Brand say was his reason for killing Tom and Bruce?
What is God's warning about jealousy?
How has jealousy affected decisions you've made?
What was the outcome?
What tools does God give you to fight the feelings of jealousy?
Note: Always Watching depicts some of the band members as having tattoos or piercings.
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.