(A quick aside: I should probably qualify the term "LDS novel." I consider a book written about Mormon culture by a Mormon author to be an "LDS novel." Most of these are published by Deseret Book, which requires stories to be clean and uplifting (you can read their author guidelines here). Many authors find this too restrictive, so they publish in the mainstream press. IMHO, Deseret Book - type novels are written more for church members, while those published by mainstream presses have wider appeal to readers who are not LDS. I don't know if that makes sense, but I wanted to mention that Taken By Storm was not published by DB. Thus, I struggled with labeling it a "clean read" - it's not graphic by any means, but it is much more realistic than the average LDS novel. That's why I enjoyed it so much.)
Anyway, the book revolves around two high school seniors: Leesie and Michael. Their worlds collide when Michael moves to Leesie's podunk hometown of Tekoa, Washington. A fierce tropical storm has stolen his parents' lives, leaving him deeply scarred. The brooding teenager spends all his time fighting the memories that threaten to engulf him - he's really in no mood to make friends. Leesie knows she shouldn't be so interested in Michael. Not only is he not LDS (and therefore not boyfriend material), but his grief makes him dark and dangerous. Besides, she's just biding her time in the boonies - as soon as her acceptance letter from BYU arrives, she'll run and never look back. But, there's something about Michael that sucks her in, threatening to drown all her resolve to be a good Mormon girl.
It doesn't take long for them to develop a deep, intense relationship. Michael falls for Leesie's farm-fresh innocence, which soothes his troubled soul. Her "rules" drive him crazy, especially the no-sex one, but he's confident he can melt the "Mormon Ice Queen." Even if he can't, he still needs her - she's the only one who can keep his sorrow at bay. Leesie can't help wanting to save Michael's grief-stricken soul, but he has no interest in the Gospel that guides her life. Still she's drawn to him. Too drawn. Her body screams more, more, more, even though she knows she has to resist. It's obvious he's been with girls before, but Leesie's determined not to be one of them. She loves Michael, he wants her to prove it, and, God help her, she wants to show him, but she can't. Besides, she's got a bright future to look forward to - Michael's concerned only about the past and present. How much will Leesie have to give up to love him? Can Michael hang on when she refuses to give him what he needs? The situation takes Leesie to the brink of her faith, threatening to steal everything she believes in, everything she's lived for. It will also try the limits of Michael's patience, toy with his fragile psyche, and browbeat his already shattered heart. Does their impossible love even stand a chance?
The thing that will scare off some LDS readers is the thing I enjoyed most about Taken By Storm - its honesty. The emotion is raw, intense and, at times, so dark it's depressing. It's also very relatable. Through chat room conversations, poetry, and entries in Michael's Dive Log, readers come to know the characters well. Regardless of their religion, readers will recognize Leesie's desire to "be good" in the face of overwhelming temptation. They will also find sympathy for bad-boy Michael, who can't find peace no matter where he looks. Kids who have been spoon-fed cheesy LDS literature, will find Taken By Storm refreshingly real. They'll appreciate that the novel is both hopeful and faith-promoting, but not preachy or wrapped up in a sappy, predictable package.
As much as I enjoyed the book, there are a couple of things that bugged me about it. Number One is the cover. Ick. I never would have picked up this novel based on its cheesy art, which makes Taken By Storm look like a silly romance. This is a serious novel - it begs for a provocative cover. Less important are these two things: (1) The novel is very intense, with lots of dark, raw emotion. I would have liked a little light here and there. And (2) Leesie's extreme Goody-Two-Shoes-ness makes Mormons look a little freaky. Just for the record - most LDS girls live pure lives without acting quite so buttoned-up. These are minor complaints (well, except the rant about the cover - I know I said I wouldn't use the word, but it really is cheesy), because the novel is engrossing, honest and edgy enough that teens will actually want to read it. I, and probably plenty of LDS readers, have been waiting for a book like this. Here's hoping Morrison will continue to publish ... and often.
(Note: Taken By Storm will not be available until March. However, if you sign up to become a Teen Reviewer, you can get your very own ARC right away. Trust me, you want to do this.)