Have you ever read a book that became so much more than a good story? Than a well-written, moving tale full of vivid characters? Have you ever read a book that changed your perspective on books and even life in general?
I have. When I was younger, it was The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe…The Door Within…Maximum Ride…and many others. Those books that opened my eyes to what it looked like to give people a new perspective on faith through a fantastical allegory. That knights and dragons could pierce to the soul. That a main character could be so well written, that the mere writing style is enjoyable, let alone the cleverly-imagined plot.
These books and many others have helped me to grow in some way. Recently, I read another one of those soul-touching, mind-changing, dream-expanding novels.
You’ve probably heard me talk about A TIME TO DIE a lot by now. Its pretty much my first response to book-related questions these days…
Them: “What’s your favorite book?”
Me: “Um…dunno, but A TIME TO DIE. GOSH.”
Them: “What book would you recommend?”
Me: “A TIME TO DIE. End of story. Plus…we have ninjas.”
Them: “What author do you really look up to?”
Me: “There’s authors out there that are awesome and challenging…and then. Then, there is our Ninja Leader, Nadine Brandes. Need I say more?”
So…yeah. Pretty much how it works. Seriously, though—if you try these books and fall as in love as I have, join Nadine’s street team. We get a lot of cool perks, and cookies, and memes, and so many amazing people. Goals, for when I get published—running a street team/influencer group like Nadine has.
But, this post is actually not going to entirely consist of me gushing about the series. (Although, that could be a real possibility.)
Today, I’d like to talk about the ways that Nadine’s series—and in particular, A TIME TO DIE—has changed my perspective on Christian Speculative Fiction.
And maybe, some of these themes you perhaps haven’t thought about before, will impact you too!
Let’s do a little listing, shall we? Because that’s always fun. Oh, also, this whole post is spoiler-free! So don’t worry 🙂
#1: The Way She Incorporated Christian Themes Into The Novel
I’ve been reading “Christian” fiction since I could first string my letters into a sentence, but rarely have I ever read a story like the one that Brandes crafts. Set in a dystopian world where everyone is born with a clock ticking down to the day they will die, there were a hundred ways Nadine could have incorporated her faith. In allegory and metaphor, as Lewis did so well. Or, with a unique representation of spiritual themes. After all, in a world where a massive wall separates communities, and devices can take a picture of your emotion, Jesus seems a little outdated, right?
Wrong. Nadine Brandes seamlessly weaves her beliefs into this novel, without shying away from the truth, but not relying on a forward, shove-it-down-your-throat kind if style. She brings the gospel to life, showing that true peace—true Shalom—can be found in the one who holds every day of our lives in His hands, no matter where we are. Her raw, honest characters, and the massive spiritual growth they experience so naturally was unlike anything I’d read before. And even more so—I found myself being challenged by Parvin’s trials. By Jude’s sharp temper. By Hawke’s steadfastness. And how each of them strove toward a kind of love that doesn’t waver, doesn’t weaken. An unconditional kind of love.
And a story that dares to delve into themes that strong, is certain to change the reader.
#2: Characters Who Were Not Indestructible
We’ve all read those books and seen those movies. The ones where Arnold Schwarznenager gets pummeled and blown up and drowned and buried in an avalanche—but still manages to save the day with hardly move than a few bruises and some strategically-placed scars. The same can happen in books—yes, you know what I’m talking about. Especially in high-tension, dangerous dystopian settings. Yet, the main character *cough* Katniss *cough* somehow survives with very little physical long-term damage, in spite of getting shot multiple times and having to fight for their lives.
Not so in A Time To Die. If anything, I was shocked by how much these poor characters went through. From the very beginning of the book, Parvin is thrust into dangerous and painful situations. She gets deeply cut and has to stitch herself up. Yeah, that was a fun chapter. Later on, she endures even more graphic wounds.
Although, let me just mention that Nadine does all of these rather gruesome things very tactfully—I don’t do gore or blood or anything, but it didn’t really bug me. *shrugs*
If anything, having characters with disabilities added a really unique and realistic layer to the story. And made Parvin’s journey all the more amazing.
#3: Redefining What A True Love Story Is
Girl meets boy. Boy saves girl. POOF. Love. Happily ever after and steamy romance.
It drives me crazy how most Young Adult novels have ridiculous, surface-deep representations of ‘love’ that are founded on a lot of hot and heavy feelings, and how cute the guy is.
Not so with this series. The romance in A Time To Die starts off very slowly, and even though there is somewhat of a minor love triangle, it never becomes anything cruel or dramatic. And because there is so much danger and intrigue, the characters really don’t have a lot of time to spend sighing and staring longingly into each other’s eyes. Ahem. So, the foundation of the relationships formed in book one are much deeper than just attraction.
Parvin spends long, treacherous weeks with a young man sent to protect and guide her. And while at first they don’t get along, eventually they grow to respect each other, and that respect grows into something else…
(Can you tell how hard i’m trying not to spoil anything?)
And then, her relationship with the other man in her life is mostly through long-distance communication, so that she grows to know his kindness and his heart before she even sees his face.
All this to show that the way Nadine chooses to develop her relationships between the young adults in her series is one of the most honest, raw, wholesome romances I’ve seen in a long time. Its heartbreakingly beautiful. And thoughtful. Intentional.
It has me rethinking my views on the subject and how I want to weave any romantic entanglements into my own series.
#4: Not All Stories Have A Happy Ending—And That’s Okay (sorta *sniff*)
I promise, no spoilers. Although, if you have read the series, you can guess very easily what I’m referring to.
Let me just say this. Life hurts, sometimes. Hurts so bad every bone aches and every heartbeat feels like a knife to your chest. Sometimes, our very nightmares become reality.
Sometimes, when we face darkness, and evil…sometimes, evil wins. Even just for a time. And sometimes, the story doesn’t end perfectly.
But, it always ends the way He allows, because in that raw moment, when we’re shattered and broken, His light can pour through. Its that moment of hopelessness that we have nothing else to do but cling as tightly to our Savior as we possibly can. And when we finally come out of the fire…we’ve changed. Not always in the way we would have chosen, but we’ve become stronger. And that moment becomes the one that defines us. That sticks in our heads. The first thing we think about when people ask, “How come you are so strong?”
Not because of our own power—but because in that moment, we were totally reliant on his strength, and its beautiful.
The same goes for novels. That moment of desolation is what becomes the catalyst for a truly amazing story. And the one that continues to stick in my head and impact me today.
#5: *Drum Rollll* I MUST HAVE A CHIP IN MY HEAD THAT PLAYS MUSIC AND A TATTOO THAT MOVES
End of story. Take my money. Kara out.
Seriously, though. In Nadine’s series, her character Jude has this little device that plays music into his head—no one else can hear it but him, and it changes depending on his mood. He’s always nodding his head or tapping his foot in time to the invisible music only he can hear. And as someone who thinks life is always better with a soundtrack…its the coolest thing! And lets not even begin to talk about the snake tattoo on his bicep that actually moves and curls around his arm.
Could I get one of a mermaid? Swimming up my ankle? Or a bird? The possibilities are endless…
So, there you have it! The five ways that the OUT OF TIME SERIES has impacted me personally, and my writing. The ways that Nadine Brandes has turned the cliche on its head and created a masterpiece.
Have you read this series? What did you think? Comment below!