Title: The Lit Report
Author: Sarah N. Harvey
Publication Year: 2008
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Borrowed from the library at school
This book has been calling to me from the shelves of the library at school since the fall. It keeps popping up when I try to find books to recommend to students, but I could never quite figure out what it was about. The description on the back of the book is very short, only a few lines. The only thing it really gives away is that someone named Ruth, probably the narrator’s friend, is pregnant. No allusion to why this might be called what it is, or why there is a pile of books on the front cover. Last week, I finally picked it up to take home for the Read-A-Thon, hoping to finally figure out what the story was about.
When I read the first few chapters of The Lit Report, I thought that I’d end up hating it. The narrator, Julia, is a high-school girl living with her overly religious born-again Christian mother. Her father left in large part, according to Julia, because of her mother’s newfound faith. Julia’s best friend, Ruth, is the daughter of a pastor, another born-again Christian who spent time in prison before “being saved”. Ruth’s older brother, Jonah, is away at Bible Boot Camp, because his parents think that he’s gay since he liked cooking, even though he and Julia have a bit of a “thing” going. The girls also go to an extremely Christian high school, where most girls are members of the Future Homemakers’ Club.
The only thing that kept me from putting the book down in the first 20 minutes and forgetting about it was Julia’s voice, her wit. And let me tell you, I’m glad that it did.
It turns out that The Lit Report is named this because of a school club requirement. To graduate from this high school, every student has to be part of an extra-curricular club, and Julia and her friends have one about books – The Classics Club. Julia is obsessed with reading, and so the club basically just meets to watch the movie version of classic novels, and she makes up fake minutes for the discussions based on her own thoughts about the books, being the only one who reads them. Each chapter in the book starts with a line from a book, followed by Julia’s meditations on how that line or that book intersects with something going on in her life.
Very soon in the book, Julia’s best friend Ruth discovers that she is pregnant. She admits to Julia that she got drunk at a party with the intention of losing her virginity, and does so, in the washroom with a certain boy from their class; however, what comes out later is that Ruth isn’t actually sure that this boy is the father, because she thinks that she had sex with a couple other guys, too, and isn’t positive about who. Since Ruth’s parents are super-religious, she and Julia decide that they will hide the pregnancy, Julia will help her deliver the baby, and then they will leave the child in a basket at Ruth’s father’s church for someone to find and adopt.
This book just got better as it went along. There were still frequent mentions of the Christianity that so nearly scared me away from The Lit Report in the beginning, but Julia uses them mostly to characterize people or to point out the ways in which people are “real” Christians – meaning that they are accepting and positive – or to make fun of people or ways that people show their faith that don’t seem as honest or good. Julia tells it all with a kind of charm that I can’t quite describe – something a little irreverent, but also very serious and “good girl”-like.
The Lit Report was a fun, quick read, and actually had some very interesting themes and conflicts going on. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with social relevance.