YA Book Club recap by Madison Comick, Grade 8
Ten years ago, God gave Braden a sign, a promise that his family wouldn’t fall apart the way he feared.
But Braden got it wrong: his older brother, Trey, has been estranged from the family for almost as long, and his father, the only parent Braden has ever known, has been accused of murder. The arrest of Braden’s father, a well-known Christian radio host, has sparked national media attention. His fate lies in his son’s hands; Braden is the key witness in the upcoming trial.
Braden has always measured himself through baseball. He is the star pitcher in his small town of Ornette, and his ninety-four-mile-per-hour pitch al- ready has minor league scouts buzzing in his junior year. Now the rules of the sport that has always been Braden’s saving grace are blurred in ways he never realized, and the prospect of playing against Alex Reyes, the nephew of the police officer his father is accused of killing, is haunting his every pitch.
Braden faces an impossible choice, one that will define him for the rest of his life, in this brutally honest debut novel about family, faith, and the ultimate test of conviction.
For our April meeting, the YA Book Club discussed Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert. This novel is an original story that focuses on a Christian family living in Ornette, California. Their lives turn around when the father of sixteen-year-old Braden is accused of murdering a police officer. Participants of the YA Book Club described the story as twisting, predictable, and as one person stated, a bit contradicting. We could see that the father/son relationship between Braden and his father was too normal in the beginning, but after the crime, his father showed his true character: a murderer and emotional abuser. We were able to predict this change in their relationship.
We were also able to predict that while his father was on trial, Trey, his estranged brother, would become his legal guardian. Because it’s been years since they saw each other, throughout the story, the relationship the brothers attempt to build seems unreal at first. We also weren’t able to determine whether or not Trey really loved Braden, since Braden was the “perfect” child of the family (and Trey might have been jealous because of that); however, towards the end of the story, their relationship became stronger and more believable.
One reader was able to point out that when Braden went to court to testify as a key witness, the quote on the book states that “a lie will set him free” while another quote on the book contradicts this with, “the truth will set him free.” Braden’s father was a Christian man who did not follow Christian morals. Despite this, we were able to tell that the church and religion played a role in Braden’s life and is the reason for his hesitance in court. Even though his father did not show great morals throughout the story, Braden had a strong belief in God. He struggeled with his decisions. Telling the truth was the right thing to do, but if he told the truth, he would be tearing the family apart for sending his father to jail.
Although there was an issue with the villain of the story, we all liked the way the story was narrated and its progression. A few readers pointed out Braden’s flashbacks seemed unimportant at first, but it actually pieced together nicely throughout the story. We also liked that the story wasn’t rushed. We favored Braden, Maddy (Braden’s girlfriend), and his mother. The characters we least favored were Trey, Braden’s father, and the lawyer who was defending their father’s crime. Every character was believable.
Conviction is a story of a religious and emotional journey, emotional abuse, faith, and complex father/son relationships. The YA Book Club rated Conviction an average of 3.6 stars.
This meeting was moderated by Teen Advisory Board member Madison Comick, Grade 8. Discussion questions provided by Kara Eng, Grade 11.