Monday, July 12, 2010

Simply Divine

Thomas, Jacquelin. Simply Divine: A Novel. New York: Pocket Books - Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2006. Print.
[Book cover credit:]

Divine is living the good life. Her mother is up for more than a few Grammy Awards; Jerome (her dad) is a little bit of a has-been, but people still recognize him from all of his action movies; and Divine herself is 15, popular, beautiful, and famous by association. Her biggest concerns are what to wear to events and whether she'll be allowed to attend the after parties. But living with that kind of fame and privilege has its drawbacks, such as everyone at school knowing, almost before Divine hears about it herself, that her father has been arrested for murder. As Divine's mother deals with this and a whole host of her own issues as well, she sends Divine away. Her mom says it's what's best for Divine, but how could moving, even temporarily, to a teeny town in Georgia to live with a preacher uncle and his family that she's never met be what's best? No malls, no friends, no Mom. Divine knows she's being punished, but for what? Her parents are the ones who were caught doing wrong.

Divine starts out as such a spoiled brat! All of the finery and ease that (her mother's) money has bought is simply owed to her. She can't imagine life without a personal assistant, bodyguard, and chef, mostly because she's never had to but also because she deserves to have people do for her. Not that she's actually done anything to earn the money that pays those people or done anything to justify the fame she enjoys. Her mom has. It made me hate her a little in the beginning. She's just so entitled and that bugs me. Luckily, for me at least, once Divine gets to Georgia her cousin Alyssa has absolutely no problem calling Divine out for her snobbery, general bitchiness, and trading in on her mother's name. And good for her! Alyssa, that is. She does her best to make Divine comfortable, the whole family does, but Divine is determined to be miserable in Georgia and drag everyone else down with her. Eventually, though, she starts to settle into life with her aunt, uncle, and cousins and generally becomes a much more likable person and character. And, really, she wasn't sooo bad in the beginning that I couldn't get into the book, and it was pretty obvious (in the way teenagers can be, not in a bad writing way) that a lot of her snobbery was to cover up insecurities about herself. But she still drove me a little bit nuts before she started chilling out.

One of the many things Divine has to get used to at her aunt and uncle's house is going to church. Though her daddy was also a preacher, Divine's mom does not have anything to do with the church now. Divine never has; that's just not the way she was raised. Her Uncle Reed's family attends the church he preaches in every Sunday. At first, waking up early on Sunday and sitting through a sermon causes problems for Divine; the girl is really not a morning person. As she starts to listen more often to what Uncle Reed is preaching, her problems change to focus on the act of forgiveness. How can she possibly forgive her father for what he's done to her and her mother? And why should she have to? Divine's internal struggle with forgiveness and her feelings about her father in general continue throughout the book. Her resentment about going to church does not, and she eventually becomes a Christian.

Religion is never forced on her by her family, nor is it really central to most of the book. However it is often present, particularly in the way that Uncle Reed and Aunt Phoebe raise and treat their children, including Divine. Especially with regards to Divine and Alyssa and boys. Both girls have boyfriends, but they are little more than names on a page. Given how little time they're allowed to spend with their boyfriends, this is not surprising. I expect that they, and the girls' relationships with them, will play a bigger role in the next book in the series, Divine Confidential, as the girls finally become old enough to be allowed to actually date.

But I have no doubt that the second book will be just as clean as this one. Even though it is a book with an extra-marital affair, drugs, sneaking around to meet up with boys, and even a murder, it definitely qualifies as a "clean read." I don't even remember any swearing. Yet it still manages to feel a bit edgy, probably because Divine's parents are kind of screw ups. With the help of her uncle, aunt, cousins, and God, Divine manages to move beyond her parents mistakes to star in a series that promises to be uplifting and cute while still tackling serious issues.

Book source: Philly Free Library
Thanks to MissAttitude at Reading in Color for the recommendation!

Simply Divine is only the first book in The Divine Series. The rest, so far, are as follows:
Book 2: Divine Confidential
Book 3: Divine Secrets
Book 4: Divine Match-Up
and the companion book: It's a Curl Thing, a Divine & Friends book


MissAttitude said...

Doyou think you will read the next book in the series? My library only had the first one and I while I liked it, I didn't want to buy it.

I'm happy you liked it =)

Divine is such a brat. I would have knocked some sense into her. Thank goodness for Alyssa being there.

Lawral the Librarian said...

You know, when I was in library school, I had a professor tell me that the mark of a good book is that it's always checked out, but the GREAT books get stolen. It was really hard to find a copy of this book in my library's system because so many were "missing." My library doesn't currently have any copies of the second or third books. They say they have copies of the fourth and the companion, but I'm betting it would be a LOT of a hassle to actually get my hands on them.

So, in short, probably not. If I see it for sale on the cheap, I'll probably pick it up, read it, and donate it to the library. :)