The Perfect Blindside, by Leslea Wahl

At sixteen, Jake Taylor is an Olympic medalist, a snowboarding prodigy, and a big fish transplanted to a small pond. He annoys Sophie Metcalf with his arrogance. She plans to expose him for the thoughtless egotist she thinks he is, but she discovers Jake’s considerate and haunted side. A warm and caring friendship grows between them, until they stumble across a dark secret near an abandoned mine. Threats of violence hinder Sophie and Jake’s investigation, but each tries to protect the other by placing themselves in danger. If they persist in their inquiry, Sophie may write a spectacular exposé on criminal activity in her “boring” little town and Jake may add luster to his celebrity status, or they may both end up buried in an abandoned tunnel.

Several interesting themes run the length of the novel. Jake’s celebrity comes at a price. Former and potential friends awed by Jake’s fame walk by, leaving him hungry for true companionship. In place of normal relationships, Jake is pushed and pulled by parents, coaches, sponsors, and his agent who manage every detail of his life. Then there are the stalkers. They all want something — an autograph, an endorsement, a secret rendezvous. The specter of drug dealing and abuse dances at the edges of Jake’s world. Throughout the book, Jake’s stardom attacks him from within and without.

As this book illustrates, teen romance could be defined as “an out-of-mind-experience.” A perfectly normal, happy, and ambitious teen like Sophie transforms into distracted, mooning creature under the influence of ancient biological impulses programmed into our earliest vertebrate ancestors. She and Jake suffer the agony and ecstasy of falling in and out of love—the thrill of realizing that a special person wants to be a close friend and the rage when one believes that the other may have betrayed their friendship.

Sophie is prayerful and religious, although sometimes judgmental. Jake and his family have dropped out of the church and seldom pray. As career pressures and pursuit by vengeful criminals weigh on Jake, Sophie suggests that he may find an answer in prayer. Will he remember this advice when he hits rock bottom?

Author Leslea Wahl shows both originality and dedication to research. She entertains the reader with a strong plot with side trips into the swirl of world-class snowboarding, a tour of scenic Colorado, and the running of the maze of contemporary teen culture. She builds suspense by alternating the points of view with each chapter. Jake sets up a situation, and Sophie reacts, priming the reader for Jake’s comeback. There is no shortage of tension, conflict, and interest as the reader weighs both sides of the developing story. Jake’s dialogue is a clearly that of a masculine young adult. Sophie comes across as a strong, well organized, intelligent, and honest young woman. Both are pleasant and likable. They could become an ideal couple.

Teens should enjoy The Perfect Blindside because of the celebrity aspects, the snowboarding and skateboarding culture, but most of all because Jake and Sophie are believable and loveable characters. They are romantic, but more importantly, each is willing to make tremendous sacrifices for the other, even if they feel betrayed.

Parents will appreciate the difficulties of raising a celebrity teen. In fact, Jake’s ordeal might discourage those parents intent on channeling their children into a life of fame and fortune. Mothers and fathers might also value the advice given by Jake’s and Sophie’s parents. The fictional characters didn’t always take that advice, but grown-ups can hope that their teens might recognize the value in adult wisdom, given the consequences of ignoring it.

I enjoyed The Perfect Blindside. There were some weak points in the plot, but Jake and Sophie more than made up for them. It was interesting to walk in the shoes of both characters. I would assign The Perfect Blindside 4.8 out of five stars. It did receive the Illumination Book Award, so my enthusiasm is not exaggerated. The Perfect Blindside kept me interested, shared intriguing details about snowboarding and the dark side of the celebrity life. It cautions readers about the destructive outcomes of drug abuse. The book’s most endearing aspects are its main characters. Sophie and Jake are as real as many people I’ve met in my life. I’d like to see them again and am happy that the book ends with the suggestion of future adventures with this teen duo.

Something More, by Randy Hain


Busy? Full time job + writing projects + volunteering + home schooling + committees, oh yes, there’s the family and faith to squeeze in there somewhere while trying to remain sane and healthy. Randy Hain’s been there and found “something more.” Early on, he recognized that we humans can’t do it all, so we have to make choices based on our values, otherwise we’ll leave wreckage wherever we go.

Consider inviting Hain’s Liguori paperback the next time you sit down to have a serious talk with yourself. Life constantly changes about us. What worked yesterday may no longer represent your values and goals. Ask yourself, has your motivation drifted off the mark? Does your routine still lead you toward true happiness? Randy assists his readers to probe their motivations, unearth the obstacles that chain them to unhappiness, while he encourages them to integrate faith, family and community into work and other activities.

Randy Hain hails from a corporate background, but rails against the life-devouring culture often associated with the business world. His guest contributors offer solutions that work in the life of any busy person who has realized that the time has come for life choices that lead to authenticity—life as it was meant to be, a life focused on the deepest happiness in God and those you love.

My favorite of Randy’s thoughts:

  • Corporate leaders should serve their employees by insuring an environment that nurtures growth, strengthens family and the community. People before product and profits.
  • Find mentors who will share both honest criticism and heartfelt encouragement.
  • Continually update your skills to survive in a world where the only certainty is “change.”
  • Regularly share lunch or coffee with members of your own organization and those who work outside your current environment.
  • There are a surprising number of opportunities that perfectly fit your goals and needs.
  • Crisis and even unemployment are opportunities to embrace and consolidate your deepest values as they relate to faith and family.
  • If we can overcome the obstacles to “authenticity,” you and I can make a positive impact on the world.

Embrace the REAL you:

If we stop and reflect on the world in which we live, we will surely see disturbing trends that have been years in the making. Our political system is dysfunctional and our economy is in distress. Families are under constant attack and our children are being bombarded with bad influences. Discussions about God and faith are strongly discouraged in the public square. The line between right and wrong is blurred in the name of an “everything goes” mentality, and speaking up in defense of our values often labels us intolerant.”

Change and success take courage. Let Randy Hain assist you as you make your uniquely positive impact on the world.