Dec 22, 2008: Warning: Spoilers rampant throughout review. Read only first and last paragraph if you don’t wish to be spoiled.
The Next Generation by Wes Boyd is the type of inoffensive story you can read for Sunday school: No swear words, good home values, everyone is sweetly moral, and they live happily ever after. Sorry, I didn’t mean to ruin it. It’s not like there’s any doubt that’s where we’re headed from the very beginning. The story is about Judy and Ken. Judy was badly injured in a car accident that has left her crippled and killed her younger brother. Her mother has become an overbearing protector who assumes Judy is unable to do anything and causes most of the strife in the story. Judy starts going out with Ken, a boy who asked her to the prom to get his buddy a date, and they bond over physical therapy, church group outings, and farm work.
The romance is slow. Ken and Judy definitely don’t take it straight to the bedroom. They work together and learn how to appreciate each other before hitting the sheets. It was a nice change from many of the other romances I’ve read, that unfortunately rely far too heavily on animal magnetism for their sparks and the emotional love only happens as a result of the sex. So Ken and Judy’s slow progression was a refreshing change for me.
One thing that occasionally irked me, though, was the ingrained sense of ‘a woman’s place’. The beginning of the story is Judy learning she doesn’t have to be an invalid that she can take care of herself, but that life eventually becomes dependent on how well a wife she is to Ken. Boyd teeters on a fine line with the situation. Carolyn, the wife of Tom (Ken’s older brother), is not viewed well because she doesn’t devote herself to the farm and support Tom. There is some discussion about the fact that Carolyn is the bread-winner for the family, making more money at her job than Tom at the farm, but she is still looked down upon because she doesn’t take her status as farm wife well, and when Tom dies, she’s supposed to abandon everything that he had a stake in. It seems that she’s supposed to just leave, while I felt that she might have a real claim to the farm. If she and Tom had divorced, she would have possibly gotten a piece of the farm, but it’s hard to say. She had to contest Tom’s father’s will because Tom had not been given any real stake in the farm, I believe, so when Tom died, she got nothing, but when the father died, she could sue. I think that’s it, but this aspect of the story is rather hazy. I think we’re not supposed to consider Carolyn’s situation very sympathetically. It’s just another hardship Ken and Judy are to righteously overcome.
Contributing somewhat to the male chauvinism is the POV shifting in the story. Judy is the main POV for the first half, but Ken becomes the primary POV in the second half, and I didn’t much care for his endless worries about the farm, and I missed reading about Judy’s small triumphs, but it was like Judy’s done; she’s happily married now to a big strong man; her story’s no longer interesting; let’s focus on Ken, who has the weight of the world on his shoulders. My biggest problem with this though is endless financial worries and farming concerns are not that riveting.
The male chauvinism is mild for the most part. It definitely didn’t make me stop reading the story. In truth, I didn’t dislike the story, but I wasn’t on the edge of my seat to find out what happened next. Everyone is just so mild and even-tempered. It is a calming story. Everyone discusses their problems and works through them. It’s like a Hallmark Special starring a girl from 7th Heaven.
The story’s complete with what I consider medium length chapters. There’s a forum to talk to the author, the story is easy to navigate, and there aren’t any distractions from the text. If you enjoy Christian fiction and want a nice relaxing read, then The Next Generation may be for you.
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