On Barb’s Bookshelf: Roland West, Outcast

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Theresa Linden’s latest novel in the West Brothers series is based on a scenario that really rings true: a group whose message is “tolerance” or “acceptance” refuses to accept certain people whose moral or political views differ from their own.

In Roland West, Outcast, that group is an after-school club at a high school. In real life … it could be anywhere, and it can happen to people of any age. (It happened to me just recently, and it was just as difficult a situation to navigate in my fifties as it is for my friend’s daughter, who was approached by a large group of students at freshman orientation, trying to pressure her into joining an after-school activity where political correctness is the order of the day. I think that particular 14-year-old handled the situation with much more aplomb than I did.)

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Synopsis: For shy Roland West, speech class is synonymous with humiliation. The last thing he wants is more attention from the gossips and troublemakers of River Run High School. But when an outcast’s house is viciously vandalized, Roland needs to find the perpetrators—before they strike again. Yet nothing is as straightforward as it seems. Suspected by the police and ridiculed for his beliefs, Roland draws closer to the sinister truth. When the perpetrators threaten a good friend, can Roland overcome his fear of speaking out and expose them?

I was impressed by Roland’s strength of character. He might not have the guts to deliver an oral presentation in class, but when it comes to standing up for someone else who’s been victimized, Roland is all in — even when the person he’s trying to help doesn’t seem to want it.

Roland West, Outcast, is perfect for middle- and high-school students who are struggling to find their unique voices in a world where harmony is purported to be prized, but it’s really only unison when you listen closely.

Books in the West Brothers Series (in chronological order, not in order of publication):

Roland West, Loner (read my full review)
Life-Changing Love (read my full review)
Battle for His Soul
Standing Strong
Roland West, Outcast 
(concurrent with Standing Strong)
Anyone But Him (read my full review)

I asked Theresa Linden about the order of the novels, as they’re not all published in chronological order; I was wondering if that made it particularly challenging for an author. (This book does work as a standalone, but I’m all about reading the full series to get the best sense of each character.)

Q: Is it hard to bounce around in the West Brothers’ timeline? Your last book was several years ahead of this one. It must be tough to make sure you don’t say anything in that one that would mess up what you had set up in Anyone But Him.

A: Standing Strong takes place at roughly the same time as Outcast, with one scene in both stories but shown from different perspectives, so that was a bit tricky. I also had to make sure the weather was right, the conversations in the driving scene, and other events. And I was thinking about Anyone But Him whenever I had Caitlyn and Jarret in the same scene. Fun! But, yes, a bit of a challenge. For all of the books going forward (I’ll write at least one more: the Confirmation story) I have to make sure Jarret comes across as being a bad boy, even though he’s changed now, because that’s how Caitlyn saw him.

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About the author: Theresa Linden is the author of award-winning faith-filled fiction that weaves the natural with the supernatural. She has eight published novels, including a dystopian trilogy, contemporary young adult fiction, a short story in the anthology Secrets: Visible & Invisible and two short stories in Image and Likeness: Literary Reflections on the Theology of the Body. She holds a Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University and is a member of the Catholic Writers Guild. Her books are featured on CatholicTeenBooks.com, Catholic Reads, and Virtue Works Media. A wife, homeschooling mom, and Secular Franciscan, she resides in Elyria with her husband and three teenage boys. 

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Copyright 2018 Barb Szyszkiewicz
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. I was given a free review copy of this book, but no other compensation. Opinions expressed here are mine alone.

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Two Are Better Than One

Two Are Better Than Once (1)What do Pat Gohn and Danielle Bean have in common?

  • they’re both moms
  • they’re both Catholic, enthusiastically and unapologetically (if that isn’t a word, it should be!)
  • they’re both writers
  • they’re both media-savvy (Pat in radio and podcasting, Danielle in TV and magazines)
  • they both live “down a country lane” in New England
  • they’ve both been inspiring me as a mom, writer and user of social media for years
  • they know how to encourage women

I met Pat live and in person at last summer’s Catholic Writers’ Guild Conference. She is warm and engaging, a wonderful listener who immediately hugs you upon recognition. But before I’d even met her in person, I’d appeared on her podcast and we’d had several fun and inspiring Twitter exchanges. If you haven’t found her podcast yet, what are you waiting for?

I’ve followed Danielle Bean for close to 10 years–I found her through Franciscancards.com and looked forward to the daily blogs and stories that were posted in their daily newsletter. Danielle has since written several books; she appears on The Gist and is editor of Catholic Digest magazine. I haven’t met her in person yet but can vouch for the deliciousness of her Beer Roll recipe.

Pat Gohn’s book, Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious, was published last year. Danielle Bean’s new book Momnipotent has been out only a few weeks, and I haven’t gotten to read all of it yet. But I’ve read enough to know that these two books are perfect companion volumes.

Pat’s book deals with the “why.” Danielle’s gets into the “how.”

If you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift for that special woman in your life, I highly recommend this pair of books. Tie them up with a ribbon and attach a gift card for her favorite coffee shop.

There’s nothing like the gift of peace, encouragement and understanding on Mother’s Day. I don’t know any mom who wouldn’t love that.