The Crush by Allyson Kennedy (The Ballad of Emery Brooks; #1)

Book Blurb:

Never settle for anything less.

A combination hopeless romantic and old soul trapped in a teenager’s body, closet musician Emery Brooks wonders if she’ll ever find a love as timeless as her grandparents’. Fear of judgment and social alienation due to her older brother’s past mistakes render her incapable of writing a love song. Still, Emery holds fast to the ideals her Grandma Adeline instilled in her from a young age, vowing to allow God to handwrite her love story, to never settle for anything less.

That is, until love cynic Sawyer Alston enters her world. Broken by the wrath of his parents’ failed marriage, Sawyer has been uprooted from everything he’s ever known and now sees love as a void of empty promises. When Emery and Sawyer meet due to their mothers’ rekindled friendship, Emery soon realizes she’s in over her head.

For, despite her resistance, her first crush, her first glimpse at love, involves a boy who doesn’t believe in love at all.

Though I did have the privilege of editing this novel, all of my opinions are entirely true and would not be different if I had picked this book up on my own.

Review:

I’ve read and reviewed Allyson Kennedy’s books before, and while I’ve always, always loved her stories, I was not even ready for The Crush.

YA Christian Contemporary is a much needed genre, but it’s very hard to find books within this genre that are both amazing stories, and amazing at presenting Christianity in a way that isn’t preachy. The Crush is a story that is so amazing that I literally laughed out loud and cried my eyes out in more than one place. It’s so beautiful.

Emery has a heart of gold and I loved watching her grow up and mature into the young lady she is. And Sawyer, oh my goodness, he was so special and brought an entirely new dynamic into the storyline. This couple is so perfectly imperfect. You will find it incredibly easy to root for their success.

One thing that makes this Christian YA stand out from others is how raw and real Allyson is in including how messed up Christian families can be. I think one of the biggest flaws in Christian fiction is illustrating the idea that these once-bad characters accept Jesus and then suddenly they make all the right decisions or take every bad thing that happens to them with a grain of salt and portray that life is suddenly laid out perfectly before them. Sure some bad things still happen, but now they have this perfect wisdom in how to navigate it just because they became Christians. And that is just so not true! The Crush portrays the realism of being Christians and showing that even though Jesus is the king of our lives and we’re doing the best we can, we still make terrible decisions, we still fall apart at night when no one is looking because we don’t know what to do, and we still struggle to move past things that will forever change our worlds. The Crush shows what being a Christian is really like, especially as a teen.

I also liked how there is a show of toxicity in church and how throughout the book, Allyson illustrates through actions of other characters that just because someone goes to church, doesn’t mean they should be looked up to as role models; including adults. I think that is an incredibly important message to share with teens, because in many of these toxic churches, a teen’s faith can be easily squashed by an adult because teens are simply told to “obey” or “respect” the elders without question as to whether the adult is in line with the Word or not. And while respect should always be taught, teens need to know that not all adults (whether they are leaders in the church or not) are always correctly aligned with the Word; which is why personal Bible studies are so important in your teens. But more importantly than just showing how a church can be toxic, I loved how she incorporated that even in leaving one church, it’s still important to find another. Not because you can’t be a Christian if you don’t go to church (so FALSE), but because it’s important to surround yourself with other believers who can help to build you up and walk through life with you.

There is honestly so much about this book that I loved and I could probably go on and on about it. The way it’s written, the SONGS that were included (O.M.G. I just cried, like, so hard), and really just everything about this book. My husband laughed at me because everytime I looked up from reading this book I was crying, either from pure happiness or complete anguish. There was hardly an in between. I give The Crush a solid 5 out of 5 stars and cannot wait until the next book in The Ballad of Emery Brooks comes out!

Trigger warnings: Depression/anxiety. Mentions of attempted suicide and death of family members. Some mentions of partying. There is no cursing and no sexual content (aside from a few kisses).

Goodreads | Amazon (Avail. Oct 24, 2020)

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