Sunday, January 3, 2010

Book Review: Take Your Best Shot by Austin Gutwein

I didn't know what to think of this book when I agreed to review it for Thomas Nelson Publishers. It's billed as a book for teens yet it chronicles the beginning of the Hopes of Hope program by then 9 year old Austin Gutwein. Austin had seen a World Vision program telling the plight of Maggie, and African girl, who like many others, was at risk of starving. The story bothered Austin. He didn't get forget about it. He didn't just move on with his life. He wanted to do something. Everyone thought he'd maybe earn a few dollars and send it to World Vision. No one expected him to shoot 2,057 free throws for pledges of a dollar each. And it didn't stop there...

The book is written in an interesting style that I found both engaging and distracting at the same time. It is written very casually, like he's talking directly to kids like him. That is fine; it's his intent. However, the book ricochets between telling about the beginnings, and growth, of Hoops of Hope, the details of his first trip to Africa, and Scriptural/Biblical/Christian encouragement to go out there and let God use you. The ping ponging back and forth made the book a little harder to follow, hurt the flow of the story. Each chapter ends with self-reflection questions geared to challenge teens to go out and use their passions to make a difference.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was definitely inspiring. It makes you think, "If a ten year old can do all that, what can I do?" Definitely take a look at it if you are looking for inspiration.

Before you give it to your own 9 year old to read, consider your child's maturity level first. The book does discuss some of the harsh realities of life in Africa: AIDS, hunger, young boys being forced into fighting, and young girls being raped and/or forced into prostitution. While Austin's story begins at the age of 9, the book is written for teens.

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