a friend at midnight by Caroline Cooney, 2006
Lily is taking care of her baby brother Nathaniel while her mother and stepfather drive her older sister to college. Then the phone rings and she hears her eight year old brother Michael's voice.
Despite their misgivings, her family had honored Michael's decision to go live with his father but now he is at Washington/Baltimore airport, alone and scared. No problem, Lily thinks, I can get the bus to LaGuardia to meet his plane. Only, Michael doesn't have a ticket to fly home. When Lily learns the truth about her brother's predicament she has to act quickly to rescue him. The fallout from that day turns Lily's world inside out and upsets her relationship with her family, her friends and with God.
Cooney can build tension in a story like no one else. Lily's anger is justified and the reader shares it. She is trying to protect her brother and she is furious with her dad. How God can allow bad things to happen?
...She was skeptical of prayer, never paid attention at church and referred to the minister -- Dr. Bordon -- as Dr. Boring. But into the quiet air of her bedroom, she said, "God?"
He wasn't listening. Lily could tell. She spoke more sharply. "God, Michael needs this. Make it happen. Don't give me that stuff about free will, how people make their own choices, how your choices don't alway intersect with the choices of others in a pleasing fashion and how responsibility lies with the individual. Get down here and make this happen."
I heard Cooney talk about this book at a library conference. She commented (I paraphrase here) that there is an unspoken rule in mainstream YA publishing that you do not write about religion or faith. She is very active in her own church, has been all her life, and knowing that there are teens who are similarly involved, decided it was worth exploring as a YA novel. She was pleased when she learned the book was going to be released through two Random House divisions, WaterBrook(religious) AND Delacourt.
The storytelling is compelling and stands on its own as a teen-in-crisis novel. Lily is searching for answers. Her questions about God and faith are ones many share. Cooney deftly explores the idea that faith does not guarantee "happily ever after" but helps believers and searchers deal with "what comes after."