Written by Mackenzie Wells, University of Georgia
“The Battle for Innocence” by Stacy A. Padula takes an extremely impactful look at the unfortunate truth about what can happen at seemingly innocent parties. Two female characters, Chantal and Michelle, end up in situations in which they unintentionally fall under the influence of substances. In both cases, someone is looking out for their well-being, but the scary truth is that those very same stories could have ended up very differently. Teens should be aware of the sad fact that they should have their guard up. Michelle’s story is especially chilling because it escalates so quickly. Although the content is somewhat graphic for a young audience, it’s best that they are exposed to these things and educated about them.
This novel, which flashes back two years prior to the other books in the series, shows completely different sides to most of the characters, so I struggled to decipher how I felt about them. It was strange to have to recalibrate my opinions of them. While reading, I found myself almost holding characters’ future mistakes against them – which was a very startling self-realization!
For some characters, I was shocked by their worldliness, and for others I was shocked by their innocence, knowing how much they would change in just two years. Learning that some of Andy’s friends began drinking in 5th grade was certainly surprising. I also found the callous way that Jason and his friends talked about him losing his virginity to be appalling and saddening. On the other side of the spectrum was Cathy who is so much more innocent than anyone else. She is so authentic in this book, and it is completely shocking to see how quickly that can devolve as she falls under negative influences in years to come.
Unlike in some of the other Montgomery Lake High books, I liked Jon a lot in The Battle for Innocence. He had a very mature outlook for a seventh grader, and I was shocked by his spiritual strength, as well as the way he was a leader to his friends. I also have to admit that I liked Cathy more than Chantal in this book. Chantal was perfectly likeable, but she was also much more shallow and caught up in what she could get from others than Cathy was in this book. It’s interesting that they do such an about-face in just two years from 7th grade to 9th grade.
This novel also sets up the animosity between Jordan and Marc Dunkin, which exists throughout the subsequent Gripped book series. In addition, The Battle for Innocence initiates a lot of the drama between Andy, Jon, and Chantal, which carries throughout the rest of the Montgomery Lake and Gripped books. It is very interesting to see Chantal and Cathy’s relationship two years prior to the last book. Reading the stories out of chronological order helped me gain a new appreciation for their relationships after the backstory was shared.
About Mackenzie Wells
Mackenzie is a senior at the University of Georgia majoring in English and public relations. She is a leader at the Wesley Foundation at UGA, the community outreach coordinator for UGA’s Undergraduate English Association, and a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America. Mackenzie has always had a passionate love for books and their ability to open doors to new worlds. She is excited to assist Stacy Padula O’Halloran in making a change in the young adult community.
Articles by Mackenzie:
Fiction Novel Addresses the Struggle for Acceptance Teens Commonly Face in High School
Teen Novel “The Right Person” Prepares Kids for the Social Pressures of High School
The Battle for Innocence Synopsis
Jon Anderson and Chantal Kagelli are trying to live moral lives, but temptations are plaguing them in and out of school. Will they continue to be lights in their best friends’ lives or will they get pulled into the darkness?
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