Amen, L.A. is a YA contemporary novel by Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld.
Seventeen-year-old Natalie Shelton is used to being a minister's daughter in ordinary Minnesota, but after her Mom is offered a more lucrative position at the Church of Beverly Hills they pack up and head to California.
It's a bit of a culture shock - but her sister Gemma and brother Chad are loving it. They're living in Ricardo Montalban's old mansion with a view of the ocean and finding themselves befriended by rich kids galore.
Yet Natalie finds herself also making enemies, and managing to become friends with the one girl she's told not to. But she's a good girl and she has morals. Surely the glitz, glamour, and partying of Beverly Hills won't manage to suck her in.
I found Amen, L.A. to be a refreshing change from the usual Gossip Girl type fare. Instead, we get a girl as our main character who has real morals and is struggling with the fact that she compromised one of her big ones right before leaving Minnesota (in just the first few pages of the book).
What's also nice about Nat is that the authors don't go the cliche route and make her a wide-eyed naivete but a smart, mature girl that recognizes the behavior of L.A., just doesn't want to embrace it. She has a kindness to her, as well as an occasional sarcastic streak, that makes her more willing to give second chances. And the fact that the authors make Nat a Christian is almost shocking in YA literature, sadly. But it's very, very cool to get a different perspective in what can often be a very tired and overused setting.
The narrative style of Amen, L.A. is also unique in that Nat is almost talking directly to us in first-person. I couldn't help but smile at the direct tips to the reader to watch the movie Clueless (I second that) and read Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (again, I second that). Without being rude or snobbish, Amen, L.A. reveals the superficialities that sometimes come with wealth and beauty, as well as the hypocrisy that can come with being outside of it. This is a sunny, fast-paced book with a conscious and a pulse on issues.
Glittering with sunshine and incredible cars, Amen, L.A. is a mixture of fun and fallout as it follows bad decisions and new decisions - and looks like a series I'll be wanting to follow-up on!