Michelle and Debra
…..by Eric Jordan Jensen
Today’s LDS teens face incredible temptations and obstacles, which threaten to distract them from the straight and narrow. Peers continually pressure them to smoke, drink, do drugs, engage in premarital sex, view pornography and participate in a host of other damaging activities. One wrong move can leave them in a downward spiral, moving ever farther away from the Church. Jack Weyland’s young adult novel, Michelle and Debra(1990), proves how important it is for teenagers to make righteous decisions and shun anything that threatens to derail them from God’s path.
Weyland tells the story of two very different girls. Although the two are best friends, they couldn’t be less alike. Michelle sports dark skin, eyes and hair, while Debra boasts blonde locks and blue eyes. Michelle follows the rules, Debra breaks them at every turn. As they grow up, Michelle abstains from serious relationships, attends church and finally marries in the temple. Debra, on the other hand, sleeps with every boy she meets, ignores Gospel teachings and sinks into despair when the man she loves deserts her. Michelle tries to support her wayward friend, even when Debra decides to follow a hopeless relationship to California on the eve of Michelle’s wedding day. When Debra finally does return to Church, she hits her share of rocks on the road to repentance, but finds strength in the friendship she and Michelle share.
The book speaks directly to teens in language they understand and appreciate, while focusing on issues that are important and relevant in today’s world. Weyland uses his unique conversation-filled style to create a fast-paced novel, especially suited for young adults. Although the girls fit neatly into stereotypes of the good Mormon and the bad Mormon, they speak like teenagers and deal with their problems realistically. Teens will also appreciate Weyland’s frank (but not explicit) discussions of sexuality and immorality. The young adults in the book could be anyone in any ward; chances are readers will recognize aspects of themselves in all of the characters. Of course, Weyland offers a book imbued with Gospel lessons and teachings. Thankfully, the book does not come off as didactic and readers don’t feel as if they have just sat through a lecture. In short, it’s a simple and inspirational story geared especially toward teenagers, that offers hope and support for anyone struggling through the temptations of adolescence.
Jack Weyland fans know that the author writes especially for young adults. Older readers can still enjoy his work, but they will probably notice Weyland’s flat, stereotypical characters and his very predictable plots. Still, he always seems to provide a quick, enjoyable read peppered with evidence of his quick sense of humor. Although this particular book appeared over ten years ago, Weyland has written many newer novels that can be found in libraries and Church bookstores across the country.
LDS readers can’t go wrong with the tried and true Jack Weyland. Although he often deals with sticky, taboo subjects, he does so appropriately and without any vulgarity. Teens will appreciate his straight talk, while adults will take heart in his efforts to bring Gospel messages to the youth. To summarize, any Jack Weyland is good Jack Weyland, especially if you are an LDS teen looking for a good read.