Book Review: "What Matters Most" by Melody Carlson

Sixteen-year-old Maya Stark has a lot to sort through. She could graduate from high school early if she wants to. She’s considering it, especially when popular cheerleader Vanessa Hartman decides to make her life miserable–and Maya’s ex-boyfriend Dominic gets the wrong idea about everything.

To complicate matters even more, Maya’s mother will be released from prison soon, and she’ll want Maya to live with her again. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And when Maya plays her dad’s old acoustic guitar in front of an audience, she discovers talents and opportunities she never expected. Faced with new options, Maya must choose between a “normal” life and a glamorous one. Ultimately, she has to figure out what matters most.

I have enjoyed Maya's story since she was first introduced in the Kim books of this series. She has struck me as a character that is very real, very down to earth and someone who is trying to figure out life each day at a time. Her story is different from other teens in most Christian YA fiction. First off, there's the fact that Maya is biracial, which sadly is uncommon in most Christian lit. Then there's the fact that she's struggling with a mother who is unable to take care of herself or her own daughter. Maya is extremely mature for her age and it's interesting to see her compared with other teens. While they may have more things material wise, she's far more richer in knowledge of the future and mental growth.

Once again, I really enjoyed reading the Green tips at the end of each chapter. I may not agree with all of them, but the fact that they're even there shows a nod to those who do care for this topic. I have yet to really see this featured in other Christian fiction books so this is a major plus for the series. I've also learned a lot about recycling and conserving which is something I need to work on. I also enjoyed seeing more about the band Redemption. I enjoyed reading about them in Chloe's series so it was great to see first hand experience about what it's like to be a rock band again. The outcome wasn't what I had expected but still interesting.

The only thing that bothered me about this book was that I felt there were a lot of loose ties at the end of the book. I've read every book in the entire Diary of a Teenage Girl series and each time one of the other girl's stories ended, I felt a sense of completion. However with this book I felt like I was left hanging. This is even more disappointing because this is apparently the last Diary book ever, therefore there won't be another opportunity for Maya to appear in another book as a background character to finish up her story. I also felt that Maya got shorted in her story because the other 3 girls had at least 4 books in their mini series and Caitlin got 5. While each individual girl's series can be read on their own, it's best to read all the books in that particular series in order. For an even greater perspective, it's recommended to read ALL the books in order: Caitlin, Chloe, Kim, and Maya.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. I think that teens will really enjoy reading Maya's adventures. Carlson has done another wonderful job connecting with the YA audience and really speaks to them. I'm really sad to see this series ending as I think it's been a landmark in the way that Christian YA fiction has become.

What Matters Most by Melody Carlson is published by Multnomah (2009)

This review copy was provided by the publisher


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