Reviewer: Samantha Vandersloot Source:
Katherine T. Tousant
"A Lesson in Red Beans and Rice" is a contemporary high concept novel about life's do's and don'ts as one struggles to make transition from being a child to becoming an adult. It boldly addresses the tough decision each human being has to make as to when and how the invisible line separating the child from woman or man is crossed. Written in form of fiction, the book opens with a conversation between two best friends two weeks before their Junior Prom. The friends, two sixteen-year-girls, have shared almost every first experience in their lives. These include: their first birthday party at the nursery they attended; first Christmas in their yards next door to one another and first grammar, middle and high school days. Also, they attended their same church services and took their first religious training and oaths together. However, as the story begins, there's a sharp division between them on if, when and how another first event should be shared. Marie, the carefree adventurous one, is convinced that Junior Prom night is when they should share their first lovemaking session with their boyfriends with whom each girl is madly in love. Lisa, more serious, is set on them saving themselves until marriage in accordance with the pledges they made to God. Alone with only themselves present, Lisa looks on in surprise as Marie boldly proclaim, "If you really love him and he loves you, then you owe it to each other to share your love. Humph! Girl, you had better wise up and stop all that old timing stuff." In response, Lisa cocks her head to the side and echoes Marie's statements followed with a profound questions when she said, "Old-timing stuff? Since when do you call having good morals "old-timing stuff", my friend?" From those statements, the girls continue to speak openly and honestly about their hopes, fears, and desires for love and happiness.
This book focuses on the issues faced by today’s teenagers in a world that expects them to grow up too fast. The main difficulty that is addressed is premarital sex, and all of the negative consequences it brings. The author does a good job of using many different arguments, all from a Christian perspective, as to why teenagers should abstain.
The author should be commended for writing a book for teens that talks openly and honestly about the decision to become sexually active. There are some minor grammatical and editing mistakes that could be fixed. At times the dialog seems unrealistic; that is, it doesn’t sound the way teenagers really talk. There are also times when it seems redundant, like the same arguments are being made over and over. There is very little physical description until closer to the end of the book; more detailed descriptions of the characters and the settings would add a lot to the story.
The story revolves around two couples, Edward and Marie, and Lisa and Leon, and their friends and classmates. In the opening chapter, Marie tries to convince her best friend Lisa that prom night is the time for them to physically express their love for their boyfriends. Lisa is thoroughly convinced that sex should not take place outside of marriage, and reminds Marie of the vows they made when they were younger, to themselves and to God, to wait.
Some of the characters in the book make good decisions, and others make poor decisions, regarding sexual behavior and alcohol use. For all of the bad decisions made, negative consequences always result. At a church lock-in, a young woman who contracted HIV talks to a group of teens about the importance of waiting until marriage. One of the high school girls is a mom, and she talks about the difficulties she is now facing because of her decision to have sex with her boyfriend. “A Lesson in Red Beans and Rice” contains a lot of honest, open discussion between young people as they weigh their options and make important, life-changing decisions. This book can easily be Dove approved for ages twelve and above.
Content Description: Sex: Frank conversations between teenagers about sex (general, not detailed); implied pre-marital sex between teen couple; kissing between teen couples; reference to a woman and a married man having an affair; teen boy makes a couple of crude sexual comments and suggestive hip movements; reference to an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; reference to “getting it up” and Viagra. Language: D-1; OMG-3; H-2 Violence: Teen gives his prom date a drink with a date rape drug in it, assaults her, and almost rapes her. Drugs: Use of date rape drug in a (presumably alcoholic) drink; teen boy talks about how he drinks alcohol and smokes cigarettes regularly; drinking and driving is implied with negative consequences. Nudity: Girl in skin-tight, revealing prom dress; girl in slip. Other: Woman talks candidly about contracting HIV; teens injured in a car crash caused by drinking and driving.