Like many evangelical girls, I grew up on a steady diet of Christian series. I read the Chronicles of Narnia, Grandma's Attic, and Elizabeth Gail series, tucked in amongst Anne of Green Gables and A Wrinkle in Time.
After Elizabeth Gail, I was more than ready to move on to teen Christian fiction and there awaited Christy Miller. Life would never again be the same.
The first few books had already been published by the time I found Summer Promise at our local Christian bookstore. I was swiftly drawn into Christy's world. We meet her just before her 15th birthday during a summer-long vacation in Newport Beach, CA, where her wealthy aunt and uncle lived. Far from her home in Wisconsin (Midwestern Girls Forever!), Christy wrestled with similar insecurities as she made new friends and questioned whether her crush Todd was into her or not.
While Christy's life wasn't perfect, she never faced true calamity and strife either. Each book would wrap up with a perfect bow tied on the conclusion. It was all very...Christian-y.
I've heard author Robin Jones Gunn tries to present a Christian ideal in all her novels. It's almost utopian and therefore many of the scenarios are unrealistic. Do people really talk like that? Would that really happen?
Yet Christy Miller's world was just wanted I needed in my pre-teen and then teenage state. I needed to see a Christian girl dealing with the ups and downs of friendship and crushes. I wanted to know whether she and Todd were meant to be. I wondered whether someday I'd meet a cute surfer with screaming silver-blue eyes and a heart on fire for Jesus.
Because of Christy Miller, I thought it would be a good idea to learn to drive stick-shift, just in case whoever is driving me becomes incapacitated by a bee sting. (Still haven't fallen through on this.) I romanticized California. (I have yet to make it there, to my chagrin.) I chalked up coincidences as God Things. (Sometimes.) I wanted to live in a house with a window seat. (This dream endures.) I started a journal composed of letters to my future husband. (I threw the journal out a couple of years later.)
After the Christy Miller series ended, Sierra Jensen's began. Sierra and I had more in common, aside from her interest in being a missionary. (The series totally left us hanging, which is why I was glad RJG wrote Love Finds You in Sunset Beach, Hawaii.) Around this same time, I began reading the Glenbrooke series, which was written for grown ups and where I first learned the allure of Irish Breakfast tea. Still, these books offered improbably happy endings. The lack of grounding in reality seemed a bit unfair but I was also in college and feeling jaded.
In RJG's world, you marry young and saving sex for marriage isn't that difficult and God always comes through. There are hardly any "older" singles in her books. There are rarely situations in which platitudes don't apply.
Even so, I was elated when Christy and Todd: The College Years were published. There was something infinitely satisfying about learning what became of one of my favorite fictional couples. Who could argue with the nostalgia of it all?
A few years ago, Christy's best friend Katie Weldon got a series of her own. At first, this excited me but I wanted to throw book 4 across the room. That utopian Christian ideal, that high-handed morality, that "who on earth talks like this?!" got to me.
I thought I'd moved beyond Christina Juliet Miller Spencer but a few weeks ago I learned a new series had been birthed. Christy and Todd: The Married Years.
I COULD NOT RESIST THEM.
I plowed through Forever With You and Home of Our Hearts. They were impossible to put down, even though they had their share of cheesy moments and the same things I disliked about the other series. Even though she can get heavy-handed with complementarianism, purity culture, and gender roles. Even though I don't know anyone who talks about God the way Christy, Todd, & Company do. Even though dear RJG doesn't use the word "sex" (due to the publisher?) when writing about married sex. This made me giggle when reading the few scenes which address Todd and Christy's marital bliss. What else can you do after reading a line about their "rainy, romantic, robust Sunday evening"?
But I can't quit Christy Miller.
The beauty of Gunn's writing is I still relate to Christy's struggles, in this newest iteration especially. Christy and Todd wrestle with their respective calling and where to live and what to do for work. They're on an extremely tight budget and job searching through most of the two books. (Remind you of anyone? I wish I could tell you exactly what I've been contemplating and why it resonated so strongly.) They're contemplating big leaps.
And sure, in Home of Our Hearts they travel to two exotic locations courtesy of wealthy relatives. In both books, those same wealthy relatives help them out of a few jams, prompting me to mutter about not having a generous benefactor. Where's my Uncle Bob and Aunt Marti?!
All this pales in comparison to how much I related to everything else. I was inspired and encouraged by what Christy went through. There were lines that made me cry because I sensed they were for me, as much as they were for Christy and her friends. For whatever reason, God speaks to me through Christy Miller.
That's why I can't quit her. Bring on book 3!
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