I don’t usually review YA, but Mitali Perkins is one of my new favorite authors, and her new book, Forward Me Back to You, is fantastic! Ok, so I’ve only read two of her books so far, but I loved them both, and the rest are in my to-read pile.
She first came on my radar a few years ago when I read this article about how the books she read as a child paved the way for her eventual conversion to Christianity. But recently, after chancing on a podcast interview with her, I knew I had to pick up her books.
Forward be Back to You follows two protagonists. Sixteen-year old Katina, a biracial girl raised by her single mom, is dealing with the aftermath of an attempted sexual assault which she fought off with Brazilian Jujitsu. Eighteen-year old Robin/Ravi, an Indian-born boy adopted by white parents, is trying to come to terms with his identity and his feelings toward his adoptive parents and birth mother.
When Katina’s mom sends her to Boston to heal, she and Robin find themselves in the same youth group. A mission trip to India serving exploited girls seems like to perfect opportunity for each of them to conquer their deepest need. Forward Me Back to You is a beautiful story of faith, friendship, and family.
What I Loved
- Authentic faith in practice–There are some fantastic characters who really shine Jesus in this book, especially Grandma Vee who teaches Katina about “golden ruling.”
- Important issues–this book deals with some big topics: international adoption, sexual assault, and child slavery to name a few. Teens need to be learning and thinking about these big topics that are part of their world. Forward Me Back to You could be a great bridge for conversations with your teen.
- Characters who you grow to love–Katina, Ravi, and others become characters you root for and empathize with. It was hard to say goodbye when the book ended.
What Parents Should Know
- Possible disturbing scenes–The book opens with Katina’s visceral reaction to recalling her attempt assault. The book never gets graphic, but things are dealt with frankly and openly, even as Katina has trouble being open with others about what happened to her.
- Child exploitation--It’s an ugly world out there, and this book provides a great bridge to talk with your kids about the slavery that still exists in our world today. International Justice Mission, which Perkins mentions in the author’s note, is a great place to start.
- Teen pregnancy–Katina’s mom became pregnant at 15 and raised her daughter on her own. Several of the rescued girls are also either pregnant or have babies by their abusers.
I’d recommend this story for ages 14 – 16 and up, depending on the teen, their sensitivity level, and their background.