Reviewed by John Perrodin
Payback by Melody Carlson
"Payback combines an exciting, page-turning plot, characters worth caring about, and powerful dialogue."
Likeable teen Sam is back for the finale volume of the YA series, The Secret Life of Samantha McGregor. As in the first three books, her heavenly visions are still going strong. Though Sam knows her gift comes from God, the pictures flashing in her mind are often hellish and heart-breaking. In Payback, she sees red splashed against glittering tile, bloody horror at an upcoming prom. But which one? She’s going to have to go undercover to find out even if that means getting her boyfriend, Conrad, confused – if not a little jealous.
But prom-hopping isn’t the only thing on her agenda. Samantha’s mom is caught up with a new guy, Steve. Sam doubts he’s Mr. Perfect like her mother thinks though she can’t quite pinpoint her concern. However, when Mom’s money starts disappearing, Sam wonders if there’s a connection. After her mother is abducted, Sam expects the worse – especially when she dreams of a mysterious woman in the desert and an angry man with a gun. Sam wakes in a hurry. She’s got to scribble down the images in the notebook she keeps by her bed for just such occasions.
Sam’s got other worries, too, like her brother, Zach, in rehab. And then there are the visions of a young man’s brutal beaten. And poor little Katie, Conrad’s sister. The doctors aren’t sure if she’s going to survive. Somehow Sam’s got to make the pieces fit. Why else have a direct line to the Almighty?
With best friend, Olivia, and cop pals, Ebony and Eric, Samantha knows someone has her back. Unfortunately, she can’t be sure she’ll have time to stop the inevitable. And whose fault will that be? Like many teens, Sam must deal with the aches of growing up – but also learn where personal responsibility ends and giving over the details to God begins.
Payback combines an exciting, page-turning plot, characters worth caring about, and powerful dialogue. Melody Carlson continues to tackle the tough issues that many won’t touch. She’s not afraid to present reality and show how shallow the “in crowd” can be. Plus, Carlson addresses what happens when affluence clouds both judgment and compassion.
Added value is found in the Reader’s Guide, complete with tantalizing questions and information about visions and dreams. The author says her goal is for readers to seek God and developed a committed relationship with Him. That’s the kind of example Sam sets in Payback.
John Perrodin is the Senior Editor for the Christian Writers Guild. He co-authored the Renegade Spirit Trilogy with Jerry B. Jenkins. The latest release in that series is Seclusion Point (Thomas Nelson). His book, Simple Little Words: What You Say Can Change a Life, written with Michelle Cox, releases in April 2008 from David C. Cook. Please visit www.simplelittlewords.com to find out more about the book, and visit John's website www.johnperrodin.com to find out more about his writing.