Required Reading: ‘Stealing Parker’ by Miranda Kenneally
Once again Miranda Kenneally delivers a heartfelt, humorous, and refreshingly honest story with characters so vivid and so wonderfully flawed that you can’t help but fall in love with them. Centered around a former softball star struggling to come to terms with her mother leaving, ‘Stealing Parker’ touches on issues like homosexuality, religion, and student-teacher romance without being weighed down by Big Life Lessons or preachy monologues. Even the parts that talk specifically about prayer, church, and God don’t take you out of the story because Parker’s voice is so distinct. It’s clear that her character is largely defined by her struggle to reconcile her faith with her broken family and her judgmental church group.
In addition to Kenneally’s bold but not overpowering approach to religion, I really appreciated the way she plays with gender roles in her books—not just in that they feature girls who enjoy sports (inconceivable!) but through her characters. While Parker is very different from Jordan, the female quarterback from Kenneally’s debut novel ‘Catching Jordan’ (which is stellar, by the way), they’re both strong and independent, and they take on some of the more conventionally “masculine” views on relationships. (For instance, Parker makes out with a different guy every weekend without considering that they might feel used.)
‘Stealing Parker’ manages to be provocative while still maintaining a sense of sincerity and humor. Kenneally doesn’t shy away from strong language and sexual situations, but that’s what makes her characters and their experiences feel so real. ‘Stealing Parker’ is a great book for teens who want something juicier than a Sarah Dessen novel but whose parents would prefer they read a book that actually provides them with a positive example. By the end of the book, Parker finds her way back to who she is–someone not defined by what other people think of her, but by her own standards and principles. Even at 23 years old, I still find that inspiring.