Lisa McMann '90Robert E. VanderVennen ’50
Daniel C. Meyer ’89
Timothy Rosendale ’91

Wake book coverWake
by Lisa McMann ’90, New York, N.Y.: Simon Pulse, 2008, 210 pp., $15.99

Ironically, Lisa McMann’s idea for this book came to her in a dream.

“I had a dream that I was in my husband’s dream,” she said. “At three in the morning I thought that could be an idea for a story, so I wrote what I had dreamed on a pad of paper by the side of my bed. When I woke up, I thought it still sounded like a good idea.”

Apparently it was, as McMann’s book about 17-year-old Janie—who gets sucked into other people’s dreams—gained popularity and landed a spot this spring on The New York Times bestseller list of young adult literature.

The success of McMann’s first published novel was a big surprise, she said. “I knew the publisher was behind this book,” she said, “which is obviously a good thing. But when I made that list it blew me away. It’s a thrill that doesn’t go away.”

Janie is a troubled teen living on welfare with an alcoholic mother and is cursed with the ability to see and participate in other people’s dreams. Janie’s ability causes problems when she becomes an unwitting participant in some of the dreams; she’s also afraid others will find out about her “ability” and think she’s a freak.

“Something about this story felt right for teenagers,” said McMann, who has also published short stories for adults. “I feel like I made a really good connection with teens. I felt like this related to their lives and some of their problems.”

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Interview with Lisa McMann

While intended for young adults (age 14 and older), the book does contain some sexual scenes and objectionable language. McMann emphasized it is not in the Christian young adult category.

“I wrote the book that was in my head,” said McMann. “The things Janie says are who she is. I wanted this to be authentic for teenagers. If people stepped inside a high school, this is what they would hear.

“I’m not trying to witness to Christian teens,” she said. “My passion is for teenagers who are struggling and having a hard time; those kids don’t read Christian young adult books. If it’s not authentic, if Janie says, ‘Oh, darn it,’ they’d put the book down before the end of the page.”

Since the popularity of Wake has grown, McMann has connected with many such teens.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me to touch base with teens that need a figure in their life who they can talk to,” said McMann, who regularly checks her Facebook and MySpace pages and responds to all of the many queries that she receives. “I think it’s really important for authors to be accessible, particularly young adult authors. I feel like I can witness my faith by being an available adult and understanding person to teenagers—something that God has called me to be.

“I don’t hide my faith, but I also don’t apologize for the words in my book,” she added.

McMann, who is already working on the sequel, Fade, recommends her book for ages 14 and older. “I have a 14-year-old son who has read the book; I won’t let my 11-year-old read it,” she said. “I think it’s a good chance for teenagers and their parents to talk about things. I wish more adults would read the same books as their teens. Teenagers are into so much stuff—I wish more parents would say, ‘Let’s talk to our kids and deal with it.’”

McMann is the also the author of several short stories, including “The Day of the Shoes,” which won an award from the Templeton Foundation in 2004.

Recent titles

people bookA University for the People: A History of the Institute for Christian Studies by Robert E. VanderVennen ’50, Sioux Center, Iowa: Dordt College Press, 2008, 263 pp., $18.

Fifty years ago, Dutch immigrants to Canada had a vision for a new Christian university in which Christian faith and academic study would be in unity. This book describes the challenges of setting up a creative Christian program of advanced study in a country that resists non-government education. Despite the struggles, the Institute for Christian Studies is a model for the development of Christian thinking, and its graduates serve throughout the world.

long and short bookThe Long and Short of Music by Daniel C. Meyer ’89, Chicago, Ill.: GIA Publications, 2008, 134 pp., $45 (includes CD).

This book is a collection of 28 songs, each of which is a simplified overview of a topic or term in music. The lyrics provide a brief explanation or definition of the topic and, often, the song demonstrates the topic as well. Song titles include such musical terms as Rests, Legato and Staccato, and Dynamics. The book is intended for music teachers or teachers who wish to incorporate more music into their classrooms.

liturgy bookLiturgy and Literature in the Making of Protestant England by Timothy Rosendale ’91, New York, N.Y.: Cambridge University Press, 2007, 248 pp.

The first half of the book presents extensive analyses of the Book of Common Prayer’s involvement in early modern discourses of nationalism and individualism, and it argues that the liturgy sought to engage and textually reconcile these potentially competing cultural impulses. In its second half, Liturgy and Literature traces these tensions in subsequent works by four major authors—Sidney, Shakespeare, Milton and Hobbes—and contends that they operate within the dialectical parameters laid out in the prayer book decades earlier.