Wednesday, May 14, 2014

'Unconventional' by J.J. Hebert

YOUNG JAMES FROST just knows, deep in his bones, that he's a writer. He writes far into early mornings, after his wearying hours of scrubbing toilets and sweeping floors. He loves writing that much. But it's not only the joy of words that keeps him grinding; it's his desire to retire the janitor's mop. He sees being published as the key to living an improved life. James has another deep-seated conviction: that he's not good enough. He secretly longs to be accepted. However, the conventional others in his life seem all too willing to remind him that he's wasting his time. Then he meets and falls in love with Leigh, the one bright spot in his endless misery of self-doubt. A quiet but resolutely religious girl, she has to fight off disapproval of her own from overly critical parents, whose insults are countered by James's often-voiced admiration of her. Likewise, Leigh's faith in his talents begins to build his confidence, eventually allowing her to introduce him to a different way to help himself: relying on God. Ultimately, James's newfound faith is sorely tested to the point of doubt when his dream to be published seems to melt into a mirage, smothered by countless rejection slips from agents and publishers. His faith is also battered by having to fight highly emotional battles and suffer fear and loss. Just when James appears hopelessly sapped by devastating events, one last door opens, and he's rocked by an epiphany. UNCONVENTIONAL is designed to inspire readers to reach for their dreams. Buy this book. Read it. Share it with everyone you know. You - and they - will be glad you did

James Frost is a young man who works as a janitor in his father's business, but really wants to be a published fiction author. James has done what many wannabes have never achieved and produced a quality 100 000 word manuscript. He thinks the hard part is over but has a lot to learn about the nature of the journey to getting published.

He is a hero I can appreciate. James has a chip on his shoulder the size of a log and isn't afraid to have a good cry - two qualities that don't usually characterise the typical novel hero, yet he's definitely a real man. He dusts his book off every time he receives rejections or negative feedback and keeps sending it out. He really shines most when he reaches out of his self-focused world to other hurting people, such as Leigh and Meranda.

The story makes me want to encourage people whenever I can as it proves we can never underestimate the impact of a few heartfelt words. Those supportive people in James' life such as Leigh, Mitch and Arthur are great but I'm thinking of Barbara Johnson, who was only in the story for one episode, yet her meeting with him was pivotal as he'd been thinking of giving up. Her telling him that he obviously was a 'born natural' was the impetus he needed to keep his dream alive.

Poor Meranda Erickson's story is an example to us that even being a Pulitzer prizewinning author doesn't shield our lives from heartache and loneliness. Apparent success and apparent failure can come to the same person, even at the same time. Perhaps James' dealings with her, expecting help but being more of a helper and support, is one of the book's highlights.

The ending may be a bit misleading. James' eventual publishing contract seems to be painted in an overly-rosy light. In reality, he may not have been able to give up his janitor job quite so soon, if ever. One deal doesn't necessarily guarantee that more will be following. And 50 people lining up at a signing to see a debut author isn't the norm for many either. This ending may leave other writers with the idea that one publishing contract is like a holy grail, which can be far from the truth. The title is "Unconventional" and James thought that true of himself in many ways, yet it never seemed to occur to him that pursuing the traditional path to publication was not necessarily his only option, yet it did say a lot about his super dedication.

Overall, I think this a great book for all fiction authors to read as we know just where he's coming from. During those discouraging moments, which are bound to keep coming, I'm sure I'll remember James Frost and his attitude that writing stories is his calling so there's no way he's ever giving up.

4 stars

Unconventional available from Amazon

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