Saving Maddie does not need to be saved,” wrote one amazon reviewer. “The book will do well and be enjoyed by many people because there is something in it for everyone.”
With nuanced characters, Varian Johnson author of My Life As A Rhombus, and Red Polka Dot in World Full of Plaid offers a realistic treatment of complex relationships in Saving Maddie.
Joshua Wynn is a preacher’s son and a “good boy” who always does the right thing—until Maddie Smith comes back to town. Maddie is the daughter of the former associate pastor of Joshua’s church, and his childhood crush. Now Maddie is all grown up, gorgeous—and troubled. She wears provocative clothes to church, curses, drinks, and fools around with older men. Joshua’s ears burn just listening to the things she did to get kicked out of boarding school, and her own home.
As time goes on, Joshua goes against his parents and his own better instincts to keep Maddie from completely capsizing. Along the way, he begins to question his own rigid understanding of God and whether, as his mother says, a girl like Maddie is beyond redemption. Maddie leads Joshua further astray than any girl ever has . . . but is there a way to reconcile his love for her and his love for his life in the church?
Readers may start this novel off thinking it will justify how they feel about ‘judgemental, preachy Christians.’ Or they may plunge into the text, thinking that it will show that ‘no one is too bad to be saved and the Christian way is the right way.’ Those who jump to such conclusions will find themselves wrong on both opinions.
Once again Mr. Johnson has taken a controversial subject (in My Life As A Rhombus it was abortion) and broken it down. All too often people think issues are only black and white, but there are always gray areas. Mr. Johnson deftly describes those gray areas with absolutely no judgement. His characters make their own decisions, they fall down and they dust themselves off and get back up. Their preconceived notions about religion are challenged and in some cases, verified but not in a way that is expected. Also it asks the question that is it worth saving someone else but losing yourself in the process (and I am also of the opinion that not all people need to be saved, and this book also brought up that point as well which I found quite interesting).Varian writes:
How do you save someone who doesn’t want to be saved? And more importantly, how do you save someone without losing yourself?
These two questions were the driving inspiration behind Saving Maddie–from when it first began as a manuscript titled Saint Peter through the version it sold as (aka: The Path of the Righteous) to it’s current, published form. There’s certainly more to the novel than these questions–themes of love and lust, weighing the needs of the many versus the needs of the few, self-sacrifice, and the idea of whether or not a person actually is in need of being saved all play important parts in the book. But when it boils down to it, Saving Maddie is very much about what it means to “save” someone.
To “save someone” is a mutli-layered term–in the traditional sense, it can mean to physically remove someone from injury or danger. It could refer to rescuing someone from psychological and emotional trauma. In a spiritual sense, to save someone is to turn them toward God and away from sin. A variation of “save” also means to store or protect an object; to prevent it from coming into harm; to safeguard it.
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Varian loves to talk to both teens and adults about reading and writing, and about his passion for children’s and young adult literature. He is available for school and library visits, workshops, panels, and keynote addresses, with each presentation tailored to fit the needs of the audience. He especially enjoys leading craft workshops to both teen and adult writers.
Varian was born and raised in Florence, South Carolina, and attended the University of Oklahoma, where he received a BS in Civil Engineering. Varian later attended the Vermont College of Fine Arts, where he received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.Varian now lives in Austin, TX with his wife, Crystal, and is a member of SCBWI, the Writers’ League of Texas, and The Assembly on Literature for Adolescents (ALAN). Varian is also the co-founder of The Brown Bookshelf, an online community charged with highlighting established and up-and-coming African-American authors of children’s and young adult literature.
If you are interested in booking Varian for an event, please contact him for rates and availability.