A Charmed Life (The Charmed Life #1-3) by Jenny B. Jones (Thomas Nelson, 2012, 976pp.)
A Charmed Life is an omnibus edition of Jenny B. Jones’s Christian fiction trilogy of the same name. This lovely series documents the hilarious, heartfelt misadventures of privileged New Yorker Bella Kirkwood, a child of divorce who finds herself living on a farm after her mother remarries and moves them to Truman, Oklahoma. To Bella, moving away from New York is a fate worse than death. Where are the fashion boutiques? What about a Starbucks? Not to mention she now has to hitch a ride to school with her obnoxious stepbrother, Budge, who drives an out-dated hearse. But when she ends up on the Truman High School newspaper, she surprises the heck out of everyone with her tenacity, her drive, and above all, her awesome investigative journalism skills. Over the course of the series, she becomes quite the sleuth. Not only does she investigate a malevolent brotherhood of football players and save a prom queen from an exploding tiara, she also joins the circus as a part-time clown so she can solve the murder of a sweet-tempered bearded lady.
I really can’t say enough about this series, for both teens and parents. First off, it’s a clean read, meaning there’s no swearing or other mature content (though Bella does have a boyfriend, so there is a lot of kissing). Second, it boasts a well-developed supporting cast. And third, but importantly, it has a heroine who experiences tremendous personal growth throughout the series. Not only must she face issues left over from her parents’ divorce (in addition to adjusting to a new stepfamily), she must also come to terms with God’s plan for her—a plan that she did not agree to, thank you very much! For those of you who aren’t usually fans of Christian fiction? You should still add this to your reading list. While religion is an important part of the characters’ lives, it’s certainly not the main point of the story. What the story is about, though? It’s about an awesome, spunky teenager fighting her way through life’s sticky situations, and being the best person she can possibly be. This series is recommended for older teens, ages 16-18, though if you’ve got younger teens who don’t mind kissing and romance, it’s a good choice for them as well. Also, check out the excellent audiobook version, read by Brooke Helman.