Asking for Trouble
A book review for parents
This contemporary Christian book is the first in the "London Confidential" series by Sandra Byrd and is published by Tyndale House Publishers.
Asking for Trouble is written for kids ages 13 to 16. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Savannah (Savvy) Smith has moved to England with her family and is trying to fit into her new school, Wexburg Academy. Her 9-year-old sister, Louanne, and her parents are also finding it difficult to reach across the cultural barriers that separate them from their English neighbors. For example, Savvy's mother invites her neighbors to a Christmas cookie exchange. Since her neighbors have no idea what that is, they toss their invitations. Their word for cookie is biscuit. Once they realize what it is, they respond. Her family also hasn't found a church home.
Savvy can't seem to find friends, even though she has tried to join many school activities. She doesn't make it on the track team because she needs a trainer. Too late, she learns that trainer is the English word for tennis shoes and not a personal trainer. Savvy blows up something in the science club and shows she has no artistic talent in the art club. No matter what she tries, she doesn't seem to belong, until she lies that she has experience as a newspaper reporter, is interviewed for the school newspaper staff position, and then must admit she has no experience. She is given the task of placing school newspapers in the bins on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
No one goes out of the way to help Savvy, but she continues trying to fit in with those she considers appropriate. She comes up with a great idea to help save the school newspaper from going under financially and eventually gets to write an anonymous question-and-answer column that helps others. Savvy begins to find her place, after months of trying, because she is unwilling to give up.
Savvy's parents pray for her and her sister's adjustments to their new home. The family prays individually and together. They also call relatives to ask for prayer when something big happens. Savvy tries to reason with God in one of her prayers, suggesting that He should understand and accept her reasons for lying. Her unsettled feeling indicates that God is not OK with her lie. Savvy's prayers are informal, more like a conversation with God, and she equates the warm feeling she receives after most of them as a sign of God's presence. Savvy is tempted to tell a second lie to make a friend, but because she feels guilty about her first lie, she doesn't. The Holy Spirit uses her conscience to encourage Savvy to do the right thing and admit her lie. At a crucial moment, when she has a lot to lose, Savvy does admit her inexperience as a school newspaper reporter and makes things right. She realizes that telling the truth did not pay off for her in a material way because she doesn't get to be a writer on the paper. Later, when she doesn't want to disappoint her parents, she mentions that she's on the newspaper staff, but she doesn't tell them that she's the one who delivers the papers. She also keeps the fact that she ruined her mother's silk shirt a secret.
Eventually, she tells them the whole truth about each incident because she doesn't like keeping her life a secret from her parents, and it's the right thing to do before God. The bookmark in her mother's Bible keeps moving, which implies that she's been reading the Bible. Savvy has stuffed her Bible under her bed. Soon she is convicted about not reading it. She finds that God gives her His peace and prepares her for the day when she reads His Word. The family visits different churches in their quest to find a church home. Some Sundays they do not go to church but have a family devotion. They do not want a church that only has old people, and Savvy's father does not want to attend a church that is too charismatic. He is a quieter personality. Savvy bases her column responses to reader questions on James 5 (wisdom), Psalm 139 (identity) and Luke 6:31 (how to treat others).
Although Savvy respects her parents, she also blames them for moving her family to England. They are a large part of her life. Her parents try not to argue around the children and seek solutions together. Both care about their girls and exemplify godly characteristics. They take time to be with their girls and are interested in their lives. Savvy is 15, but her parents do not feel she is old enough to care for herself and her sister for a weekend. They ask Aunt Maude to stay with the girls when they are given a free trip to Bath. Savvy doesn't care for Aunt Maude until she gets to know her. She realizes that Aunt Maude tries to do what is best for the girls and their parents.
Other Belief Systems
Savvy's fortune cookie accurately predicts that her lie about having experience on a school newspaper is not presenting an opportunity. She was tempted and gave into the temptation.
Other teens use words such as blooming and cheesed off. When Savvy tries to join the science club, her beaker filled with a dangerous solution explodes and hits many things in the classroom. Later, she mentions that Ann Boleyn's head being chopped off is an interesting subject. In neither case is the violence graphic.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Why was Savvy having a difficult time making friends?
Have you ever had difficulties finding other kids to hang out with?
What did Savvy do right?
What have you done right?
What did Savvy do wrong?
What have you done wrong?
What are some things that you can do that will help you find friends?
- Savvy chews gum even when she knows the classroom rule that she can't.
Why does she do it?
What two things happen as a result of her disobedience?
Is it OK for her to chew the gum until her teacher enters the room?
Who might be watching her and her actions?
How might her actions affect her witness to others?
What is one area in your life where people may be watching your actions?
- At first, Savvy doesn't let her parents know that she only delivers school papers and that she ruined her mother's silk shirt.
How much of the truth did Savvy tell her parents at first?
Why did she end up telling them the whole truth?
Tell about a time when you did something like this.
How did it end up?
What do you wish you had done differently?
- Savvy eventually tells Jack the truth about her inexperience as a school newspaper reporter.
Did she still get what she wanted?
When you do what is right, do you always get what you want?
Even if you don't get what you want, why is it important to tell the truth?
- Think about Savvy's columns. What did you like about them?
What did you dislike about them?
How would you have written them differently?
- Where does Savvy want to sit in the cafeteria?
What table is open to her at first?
Why won't she sit there?
What kinds of kids doesn't she want to hang around?
Which kids at your school would you like to be friends with?
Which kids at your school do you avoid?
- Why does Savvy change the newspaper bag for her own bag?
How important is physical appearance to Savvy?
How important is yours to you?
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.