Sunday, November 15, 2009

Unplugged: Chosen Girls #3

When Trinity's dad is invited to Russia for a conference, she convinces him her Christian rock band, Chosen Girls, should do a concert tour in Russia as well. In the third book of Cheryl Crouch's Chosen Girls series, Unplugged, Trinity and her friends, Harmony, and Melody (Mello) quickly raise money for their trip. They also learn The Lord's Prayer in Russian and set it to music, collect supplies for hospitals and orphanages, and pack. Before you know it, they are in Russia, learning to live in a totally different culture.

As band manager, Harmony has made a mess of things more than once. Once, she had the band play at the wrong park, and in her latest disaster, the band had to perform an entire concert in chicken suits. Trinity has had enough, and when she realizes her dad is going to Russia, she takes over. It seems the more Trinity tries to be in control, the more she fails. She tells the girls to have a bake sale, but after baking 350 cookies, they only make four dollars. She tries to help her dad hurry out of the office, but ends up mailing their plane tickets. Eventually, the band makes it to Russia, but there Trinity's attempts to control are even more unsuccessful.

Pastor Kovitch, their host, explains, "In Russia, many, many things do not go as we plan them to. We do not like to disappoint our guests from America if these plans must change. So Pastor asks, please, that you trust him. He has made good plans for you. You trust him and he will trust the Lord, dah?"

As Trinity, Mello and Harmony learn the importance of trusting God, they are touched by the friendship and hospitality of the people they meet. They tour near Chernobyl, where radiation is a constant threat, and they perform skits and hand out supplies in an orphanage. Trinity also makes friends with Natalia, a Russian choral singer about her age, even though she feels her mother would rather have graceful, accomplished Natalia for a daughter than "loud, bossy, bold, pink-haired, rock-star Trin." In the end, Trinity learns God made her just the way she is, and if she will just rest in Him, He will direct her path.

What I Like: I have a Russian minor and have been there twice, so I am pretty biased about this book! I loved it, and Crouch does a great job capturing the differences between Russian and American cultures. Time and schedules don't work the same way there, and the stresses of traveling can be hard. However, Crouch also shows the genuine hospitality and love of the Russian people, and the joy of surrendering to God's plan rather than fighting to stay in control.

I also appreciated a scene in which Trinity is being a snot about eating some Russian foods, and Harmony reminds her how much people have sacrificed to provide good meals for the girls. When I was in Russia the first time, our hosts would not allow us to eat lunch at the school cafeteria, but brought in their own food from home and set up a buffet for us in the teacher's lounge. It is important to remember to be gracious (and so much of the food is really yummy if you try it).

The Pastor chooses to stay and serve the people near Chernobyl, even though he is risking the health of his family, simply because the people would have no one else to tell them about Jesus. This book reminds us sharing Jesus' love with others sometimes involves sacrifice.

Plus, the beginning of the book has handwritten note pages, and they include a copy of The Lord's Prayer in Russian characters, as well as some phonetic spellings of phrases such as "please" and "thank you." How much better can you get?

What I Dislike: I don't like it when authors use a lot of slang in their dialogue. The girls say things like, "Cool frijoles," "way fabulous," and "ohwow" (spelled as one word). This made the book seem dated and was annoying (but then, I am not a teenager anymore).

I also didn't like the way Crouch wrote the translator's dialogue. He speaks in King James English, having taught himself English from the King James Bible. This seems silly as most Russians would have had the opportunity to learn English, and I found myself wondering if it was just an attempt to get around writing authentic-sounding dialogue for a native Russian, speaking English.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 8-12

Publisher Info: Zonderkidz, 2007; ISBN: 978-0-310-71269-5 ; Paperback, $6.99

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