In the past, we have posted resources that coincide with the sermon series topic and some of them have been book recommendations. However, we have given 4 or 5 books and simply given you the titles and suggested that you read them. We have realized that probably isn’t very helpful. You guys are too busy to even read one book, let alone 4 or 5.
So, we have decided to only suggest one book a month. And here’s the kicker, we are going to read it for you. We are going to give you an in-depth review that will allow you to simply read the blogpost instead of reading the entire book.
The Family Ministries Team at NECC is currently reading the book “Playing for Keeps/Losing Your Marbles” by Reggie Joiner, Kristen Ivy, & Elizabeth Hansen and Illustrated by Abby Jartos.
This book is an amazing read, not only because of the content, but also because it is actually two books in one. One side, “Losing Your Marbles,” is actually a short story and it is suggested that you read this side first.
This story revolves around a main character named Simon, who is your average ordinary sixth grader. Simon has a friend named Max who has found himself under the thumb of the school bully, eighth grader Nick.
Nick wants Max to infiltrate the school computer system to mess with grades. And Max recruits Simon to help him because of his exceptional computer programming skills.
Meanwhile, Simon is running late for his drum lesson with a high school senior named Eric, who is currently on the wrong track. His parents want him to go to college, but all he cares about is playing the drums and working at the local music shop.
Instead of doing their drum lesson, Simon and Eric sit on the sidewalk talking. While Eric laments his overbearing parents, Simon invites him to church. Since Eric has to sit bored in church with his parents every week, he doesn’t think that it would hurt for him to sit bored in Simon’s church. Plus, he wouldn’t have to go with his parents. So, he agrees.
When Eric arrives at church, he is greeted by a ragtag group of middle schoolers corralled by a hipster youth minister named Ken. As soon as he gets out of his car, he is ushered into the church van and taken out to a cemetery. “What kind of church is this?” wonders Eric.
As the middle schoolers roll out of the van, Eric realizes that they are carrying backpacks. The middle schoolers proceed to pull out costumes and makeup. Simon explains to Eric that they are shooting a music video about zombies. This is not like any church Eric’s ever been to and he becomes intrigued.
Later on, at Simon’s next drum lesson, he spills the beans to Eric about Nick’s plot to hack into the school’s grade database. He tells Eric about how he is worried about his friend Max and that he fears Nick is going to pin the whole plot on Max.
Together, they hatch a plan to catch Nick in the act. Nick has already gotten the ball rolling with his own scheme. Max’s father is the school principal and Nick gets Max to steal the key to his dad’s office. He also knows that Simon has a special affinity for Max and won’t help him out unless he threatens to hurt Max.
On the night of a neighborhood festival, the school is open and Nick has the key to the principal’s office, he just needs Simon to hack into the database. So, Nick gets his friend, Brody, to kidnap Max and hold him hostage in the cemetery. But, Eric and Simon are one step ahead. They recruit the assistance of their zombie middle school friends to scare Brody in the cemetery to set Max free.
Meanwhile, Simon steals the principal’s phone and programs a camera feed of his office into it. Simon goes to meet Nick outside the principal’s office and has written the hacking code onto a piece of paper. He feigns nerves and acts like he can’t go through with it, but he allows Nick to steal the paper to put in the code himself. While Nick is in the office hacking into the database, the principal gets his phone back and sees the camera feed of Nick in his office.
Nick is caught in the act and the day is saved.
Each teenager in this story has a story of their own. Max is a kid that just wants to fit in and have friends. He does things that he knows he shouldn’t just to have Nick and Brody be friends with him. Simon just wants to do the right thing and he truly cares about his friend Max. One theme that I didn’t touch on in the summary was that Simon only lives with his mom and has never met his dad. Part of his story is his search for a father figure. That is the primary reason that he latches onto Eric, the high school senior.
Eric has his own story. He is wondering through life with no direction other than wanting to be a rock star. His dad is a workaholic and his mom doesn’t understand him. They want him to go to business school, but he just wants to play drums. He needs someone to come alongside him and give him some guidance. Not in a stern, “you are a slacker” way, but in a way that makes him feel listened to and cared about.
Nick and Brody are the school bullies and their stories are not deeply delved into, but it is obvious that they have their own issues that they are dealing with. But the point is that every teenager has a story and you as parents and us as youth leaders have a role to play in that story. But time is running out. Soon, they will not be teenagers and we will no longer have an influence in their lives.
All of us have Maxs, Nicks, Brodys, Simons, and Erics in our lives and we need to make every opportunity count that we have to influence them to live their life for God.
Next week, we will discuss the other side of the book, “Playing for Keeps.”