Monday, February 06, 2012

Book Review: Purity’s Big Payoff by Donna Lee Schillinger

Two little books in one take on the great big task of convincing teens and 20-somethings to wait for the “big payoff” of physical intimacy through true stories and gritty details.  Can it accomplish all that and more?

image I recently received a free review copy of Purity’s Big Payoff / Premarital Sex is a Big Rip-off (ISBN 0979163986) through BookCrash.com.


This is actually two little books in one, an intriguing format.  The second book is found at the back when you flip over the first.  I wish the second book didn’t have the word “Sex” right in the title, since I don’t feel entirely comfortable using on my blog or, for that matter, flapping around on a book cover in front of my kids.  And what’s the point of a spiritual book you have to hide from your whole family?

(When you buy the Kindle or eBook version, presumably you just get both books, one after the other, but I like the “flip book” format.  It actually feels kind of fun that way.)

This book is aimed at people who are about to make decisions about sex that will affect the rest of their lives – those in their late teens and early 20s.  I had initially hoped that this book might even be one I could pass  on to my own teenagers.  However, even beyond some of the explicit sexual content, I believe they'd have too much difficulty sifting through the Christian context to find the book's (books'?) relevance to their own lives - and that's a shame, because there is plenty of relevance here.

There’s actually some good information in these little books (I read through both in about an hour).  Both books share the emotional upheaval of exploring and initiating physical relationships too early, one through stories of “love that waited” and one through true stories of “sex and regret.”  Both books drive home the message that you can’t “play around” with physical intimacy – because there always is a price to pay.  And honestly, there’s an inherent appeal in the idea that a “payoff” awaits those who hold off until they’re ready, be it spiritual or just emotional.

The stories feel authentic, with many touches of reality on both sides.  Though the detail isn’t terribly gritty, parents will definitely want to read this before handing it to their older teenagers.  Kids get pregnant, the spectre of disease looms, emotions are a roller-coaster of highs and lows.  The tales are a bit cheesy in places, but many details are also surprisingly honest.  I especially appreciated the inclusion of the husband-wife stories of Gwen and Stone Faulkenberry, one of whom waited, while the other did not – yet who both found happiness in their life together.

The book also explores just how easy it is to draw lines in the sand – and then, in a moment of temptation, to cross those lines we’ve drawn for ourselves.  We lie to ourselves to justify getting what we want in the moment – losing sight of longer-term, higher goals.  There aren’t any terribly unhappy endings in the book, however, because its message is that no matter how off-track you have been, or how worthless you feel, you are always worth of redemption.  This is a message I can definitely get behind, though the book ultimately brings it all back to the core Christian message that this can only come from a life in Jesus. 

Because the Christian message is so central, it often seems that the book is more about winning young adults’ souls for Jesus than it is about sparing them the emotional and physical harm of becoming sexually active too early in their lives.  For Schillinger, these are likely part and parcel of the same thing.  One is spared harm if one accepts Jesus… period.  As a non-Christian, I find this theologically challenging, and many Christians might as well, given the problem of bad things happening to good (and saved) people.

I can certainly agree that spiritual maturity and physical maturity go hand-in-hand.  I would just have preferred to have seen a book like this go deeper than such a simple, one-note answer for every situation. 
Although I said earlier that this book is probably for late teens and early 20s, many scenes are so explicit that many Christian parents wouldn't want their kids reading it until they are almost too old for the book’s message to be useful.

Is this a book Christian kids would pick up for themselves?  Perhaps it could be inspiring, if they’ve been brought up with these messages and can map their path through Christianity to physicality in the context of a pure, sacred marriage. But if this book is a young person’s first exposure to the idea of waiting for physical intimacy, even if they get past the slightly sanctimonious air, I’d suspect it’s probably too little, too late, to do much good.

Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookCrash.com book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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