Reintegrationby Ashley Bogner
Length: Approximately 11 hours. To read (327 pages).
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Reintegration is young adult fiction with an agenda – to contrast a hopeless and Godless worldview with a hope-filled biblical worldview. In other words, Reintegration paints a startling picture of man without God and contrasts it with man changed by God. Reintegration uses Katherine Holladay’s romance with Matthew Braddock to explore the deep waters of disillusionment, doubt, faith, love, and self-sacrifice. Reintegration is more than a young adult romance novel with biblical material shoehorned in; it’s a biblically rooted and compelling story.
Who should read this?
This book is written for a general audience. I would be comfortable recommending this even to non-believers (especially to non-believers). The evangelistic undertones running throughout the book’s typical YA pattern make it an effective vessel for the gospel. I also would recommend it to any Christian who wants to be challenged spiritually. Reintegration deals with self-sacrifice and the male lead lives out a bold faith that is willing to die for Christ and His gospel. Katherine and Matthew wrestle with the reality of sacrificing all for Christ in the dystopian setting of the book. Young men and women alike would benefit from Ashley Bogner’s depiction of biblical manhood and womanhood in the face of persecution.
As previously stated Reintegration is intended for all audiences. It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not – this book has something for you. Ashley Bogner’s work is meant to showcase the radical difference between a humanistic (and ultimately nihilistic worldview) and a biblical worldview that values human life and truth. Reintegration ultimately is still fiction meant for the enjoyment of the reader. Even though it does an excellent job at provoking thought and reflection it also entertains.
The book’s structure is relatively simple. It is divided into 32 nameless chapters, each averaging approximately 10.25 pages. Every chapter has an installment-like feel to it, as if you were tuning into next week’s episode. Each chapter flows well into the next and it doesn’t feel disjointed at all. The chapters maintain their individual integrity without compromising the literary whole.
Reintegration -as I said before- uses entertainment as a platform for biblical truth. Ashley Bogner illustrates well the dangers latent in our culture of tolerance gone amuck by showcasing their logical extremes. Characters throughout the book are brainwashed into believing that disagreeing with someone else is a capital offense and that telling anyone they are wrong is a heinous crime.
The laws of the fictional Federation declare that anyone who tells someone they are wrong is to be branded an “Intolerant” and, “Intolerants” well… they aren’t tolerated. The Federation’s firm opposition to truth and making anyone feel the guilt of their sin quickly results in human life being treated with callous disregard. Human beings are executed simply for telling someone that they disagree.
Early on, the consequences of a truth–less culture manifest themselves. Katherine is confronted by a dilemma – murder a man she knows nothing about or erase him completely. At other times characters respond against truth with wanton violence or with apathy or a lack of moral standards.
Katherine rightly struggles with these things, and, without going into too many spoilers, her struggles drive the plot. I feel it is safe to say that Reintegration is a book with a clear message: life without God is not only hopeless but merciless – and life with God is filled with hope and joy.
The chief “argument” of Reintegration is that man needs God. There is, however, more to the book than that. Ashley Bogner doesn’t just provide a sappy story that facilitates a tacked-on Christian motif. She provides a glimpse into the radical difference that biblical principles make in every day life.
For instance, early on we’re meant to see the contrast between Katherine Holladay and her best friend Chelsea. Katherine is quiet, “plain” and rather prudish. She isn’t interested in chasing boys, she’s not interested in gossip. Chelsea is a flirt who goes through men incredibly fast and is miserable throughout the book. Matthew Braddock is portrayed in a similar fashion to Katherine, he’s not at all tempted by Chelsea’s attempts to flirt with him because he isn’t looking for a good time.
The stability and strength of the main character’s friendship and romance keep the story grounded. Some might accuse it of being sappy or being a modern-day fairytale but there is a biblical sweetness to it. Katherine and Matthew aren’t boring in their relationship yet there is nothing inappropriate about it.
Reintegration proves that an old-fashioned romance doesn’t have to be boring. The absence of sexual themes is noticed but their presence is not at all missed. Katherine and Matthew each do an excellent job of convincing you they are in love without being explicit.
Reintegration entertained me, convicted me, and got me thinking. I really enjoyed this book. I don’t particularly care for young adult fiction (not my thing), but I loved this. It was nice to see a Christian book take on the task of wrestling with biblical themes while telling a compelling story. Reintegration does that and does it well. Neither the gospel nor the story hinders one another. It’s a slow build up to the gospel in the book but when it gets there the story runs with it. You can feel biblical undertones all throughout the book. This isn’t a “Christian” book; it’s a Christian book that is gospel centered.
I personally found the male lead Matthew to be challenging. His love for family causes him to cross behind enemy lines and his love for God causes him to risk everything for the sake of the gospel. Matthew sets the bar incredibly high for biblical manhood. Likewise, Katherine was compelling too. She provides a voice for a lot of women in America who feel alienated or bizarre because they’re not running through men or throwing off traditional gender roles.
Reintegration’s greatest strength probably comes in the form of its seamless intertwining of biblical themes with good storytelling. We don’t have characters preaching sermons or ham-fisting biblical themes into random conversations. Instead we have a patient story that introduces the gospel as an explosive force that changes the landscape of the story. Reintegration is not a cheap Christian knock-off of a popular literary form, it is a good book with a biblical message at its heart.
Of course, the writing is top-notch as well. You would not be able to tell that the author has never written a book before. It flows well and illustrates its scenes very well. The language is accessible but not dumbed-down. The first person present tense was well used and adds a great deal to the story. The deep subjects addressed in the book find themselves at home in a first-person narrative. It gets better and better as the story goes on.
SKIP AHEAD TO THE WEAKNESSESS SECTION IF YOU WISH TO AVOID SPOILERS
Katherine’s conversion is perhaps one of the best uses of first person writing I’ve ever seen. Her progression from brainwashed Regulator to disillusioned renegade and ultimately to believer in Christ works well with it. Getting to read the mental commentary of Katherine while she walks through the unmaking and remaking of her life is a treat. Overall, it provides a breath of fresh air in the world of Christian fiction.
This section is harder to quantify. All books, even the classics I give a 5.0, have flaws and weaknesses. Fiction is trickier than theoretical works given its highly subjective nature. Some might criticize the book and say that perhaps it should get to the gospel more quickly but I would disagree. I think the timing and pacing of the book are excellent. Young Adult fiction may not be every reader’s cup of tea, but it occupies a massive portion of the fiction market. YA fiction is also a genre flooded with Godless material and that makes it prime for a book like Reintegration.
We live in a culture filled with supposedly Christian fiction that really isn’t. Listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22b “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” (ESV). This passage has been abused countless times truly, but in this case I think Paul himself would give a hearty amen to using YA fiction to reach the lost and glorify God. Had I any major criticism it would be this: the sequel isn’t out yet! I was deeply engrossed in the book and quickly forgot about any notions of literary criticism.
Reintegration is excellent! It’s entertaining, convicting, and refreshing. It does a better job of illustrating the Christian life and the cost of following Jesus better than any other Christian fiction I’ve ever read. It’s fun, sweet, and family friendly, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. Ashley Bogner is an extremely talented writer and I am looking forward to the sequel Underground when it comes out in the future. This book belongs on your bookshelf! Go buy a copy and read it and then give a copy to your friends that don’t know Jesus!