Thursday, September 15, 2011

AMEN, L.A. by Cherie Bennett & Jeff Gottesfeld

Title: AMEN, L.A.
Author: Cherie Bennett & Jeff Gottesfeld
Publisher: Ember (a Random House imprint)
Release Date: July 12, 2011
Number of Pages: 256
Source of Book: Book Divas for review
Author's Website:

Goodreads Summary:
When Natalie Shelton and her family move from Minnesota to Beverly Hills, more changes than their zip code. Natalie's mom accepts a position as pastor with the Church of Beverly Hills—and Natalie's along for the ride. Before she can blink, she's living in a mansion once owned by Ricardo Montalban, going to school with hot young Hollywood stars, and partying in the park with kids who know no limits. It's an amazing new life—but if she doesn't watch out, Natalie could find herself seriously messed up. Natalie has values . . . but how long can she hold on to them?
When Natalie Shelton's family moves to Beverly Hills from Minnesota, they don't really know what they're in for. Why the move? Because Natalie's mother is a well-known church pastor. During the family meeting to decide whether to go, Natalie is the only one who voices a no vote. When they arrive they find they're unexpectedly living in a former star's mansion, partying with kids who have very different values, going to school with Hollywood royalty, and her mom is heading a church with people used to throwing their money around and getting their way. Natalie doesn't know how to feel - until she meet a girl from church who could be a friend - and then meets another girl who is a friend, although she has a disreputable past. Natalie meets more kids from schoool, including a boy who she's not sure about, and her Midwestern views about people start to change. When Natalie's friendships test her faith, trust, strength, and morals - and her family members start to get corrupted by the Beverly Hills lifestyle, the choice comes down to staying to see it through or heading back to the familiar back home.

Based on the premise of this story, I thought it had a lot of potential, but only lived up to some of it. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of the writing style - there was lots of name/label dropping, at times it turns to second person as Nat talks at the reader, and there seemed to be many instances of telling so the setting was not an naturally developed. Every time there was a new setting, the story seemed to pause to explicitly describe all of the details (maybe because the author has a screenwriting background?). As a midwesterner myself (Wisconsin), I felt that the Minnesota references were a little cliche and overdone. Unfortunately, for me, the good messages from what Nat learns and how she decides what kind of person she wants to be (and whose opinions she should trust) get lost a little bit because of feeling out of touch with the writing style. There were, however, some things that I really liked: the mother as a pastor aspect juxtaposed against Beverly Hills values, Nat's relationship with her parents, their parenting style, and the authenticity of Nat's relationship struggles and beginnings with both her developing girl friendships and the boy romantic interest. I liked Nat a lot though - she's genuine, smart, non-judgmental, thoughtful, and caring as she looks for true friends and real relationships in a sometimes inauthentic city.


  1. Hmm, do you think your students will like this one or does it seem too preachy? It almost sounds simplistic or dumbed down. Is it?


  2. I actually think they might like it quite a bit. Surprisingly, I didn't feel preachy about it even considering the mom. There were a few mature parts though, and that's what I would worry about more.

  3. Mature as in 8th grade can handle it or behind the counter note from your parents mature? Are you putting in on the shelf?


  4. I think 8th grade could handle it, 7th probably with permission. It starts off with Nat deciding whether or not she should lose her virginity to her boyfriend before she moves. Although she decides to do it, there are definite emotional consequences she has to work through because of it. I always at least appreciate seeing natural and logical consequences for choices.