A book review for parents
This first teen-life book in the "Diary of a Teenage Girl: Maya" series by Melody Carlson is published by Multnomah Books.
Not-So-Simple Life is written for kids ages 16 to 18. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Fifteen-year-old Maya Stark, daughter of the famed '80s singer Nick Stark, lives with her alcoholic, drug-addicted mother. Her father, who is traveling the world to revive his career, has little idea of the struggles she faces or the depth of her desire to become emancipated from her family. Despite her disdain for the fashion industry, Maya lands several jobs in high-end retail and modeling. She plans to divorce herself from her parents and prove herself legally and financially worthy to become independent at age 16. Maya hits a turning point when her mother is arrested on drug charges, and her Uncle Allen and Cousin Kim invite her to live with them. In the comfort of their “normal” home, a depressed and suicidal Maya finds God and begins a new life serving Him.
Maya's grandmother takes her to church when she's young, but Grandma Carolina's death leaves Maya angry and skeptical about God. Maya's cousin, Kim, and uncle, Allen, are Christians. Kim urges Maya to keep a journal, ask Jesus into her heart and begin meeting with the youth pastor's wife weekly. Kim's youth pastor encourages Maya's difficult questions about God and assures her He is big enough to handle them. Maya accepts Christ and discovers a sense of peace and belonging that she's not known before.
Maya's mother, Shannon, is an alcoholic and a drug addict who frequently disappears for days at a time, fails to pay bills, physically and verbally abuses her daughter, squanders child support and steals the money Maya earns at her job. Maya's dad is too busy to be bothered by a teenage daughter, though he does step in to help when Shannon is arrested on drug charges. Maya's bosses in the fashion/modeling industry are harsh and snooty. Maya's uncle and older cousin, Kim, invite her into their home when she has nowhere else to go and offer kindness and patience — as well as God's love.
Other Belief Systems
When Maya does something nice for her photographers, she mentions feeling good, "kind of like karma." At the end of each of Maya's journal entries, she puts in a "green tip." Maya's a vegan and into saving the earth. Throughout the book, the author seems to have an environmental agenda. At the very end, Maya does come to the conclusion that God (the Creator of the earth) comes first, not the planet.
The word crap appears a few times.
A couple of the girls Maya meets in the fashion/modeling industry live with their boyfriends. Maya mentions that there are some sleazy people in the modeling industry who want to take advantage of young talent.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- Maya often lies to her mom and even engages in some illegal activities, such as driving without a license.
Do you think her behavior is justified under the circumstances?
- Maya's dad didn't seem as volatile a parent as her mom.
What do you think about the decisions he made to pursue his career?
- What do you think about Campbell and Em living with their boyfriends?
Some couples think that's the best way to get to know their partner before marriage. Do you agree?
What does the Bible say?
- Maya feels as though she's "sold her soul" by working for the fashion industry.
Have you ever done anything that went against your core beliefs?
Why did you do it? How did it feel?
- Maya says she thinks she gave her life to God when she was younger, then she sort of took it back.
Have you ever felt like that?
- Does God ever give up on you or forbid you from returning to Him?
- Do you think Maya should carry on with her emancipation plan?
What other options might she pursue?
- Maya accepted Christ toward the end of the book. She still needs guidance on how to live.
Whom should she see to continue the healing process?
- Maya home schools herself.
Is this possible without parental support? Explain.
- What kinds of government policies are in place to keep kids from home schooling themselves?
- How do you picture home schooling?
- Many home-schooled kids win top academic awards and scholarships.
Do you think they do it all on their own?
- What kind of support do most home-schoolers receive from parents and others?
Note: Other series characters include Caitlin, Chloe and Kim.
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.