'BORING!' Have you ever described the Gospels that way? Well, if you have, you are going to have to find a new word to describe them once you have read this book - something like 'awesome', 'cool', 'fab', or 'wicked' perhaps.
Rosie Rushton, who knows a thing to two about writing for teenagers - she has written more than forty highly successful books for them - retells the story of Jesus through the eyes of four teenagers who hovered on the fringes of the crowds that followed him.
It is a story full of mystery, adventure, passing, loss, excitement, disillusionment, hope and pain: a story of an all-embracing love that has changed the lives of millions of people over two thousand years - and still does.
It is the greatest love story ever told - and them some! So come and chillax with Jesus.
Rosie Rushton is the author of more than forty best-selling books for teenagers and young adults. She has been a youth officer in her local church and for several years was a Governor at a C of E secondary school and is a Lay Reader.
Her great loves are swimming in the sea, going to the theatre, reading, sharing meals with friends, exploring new forms of worship and reverting to childhood with her six grandchildren. She is rather less keen on dusting, bigotry and being sensible.
Having now written The Greatest Love Story Every Told and then some!, Rosie has two remaining ambitions: to visit China and to learn to sing in tune. She holds out rather more hope for the first that the latter.
Rosie tells The War Cry's Claire Brine about her take on the good book...
Teenage fiction author Rosie Rushton has written more than 40 books. But, she says her latest novel is the one that she has been ‘yearning to write for ever’. It is The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.
‘The story is about four teenagers on the fringes of society who followed Jesus’ explains Rosie. ‘The Bible tells us that Jesus attracted huge crowds, but it reveals the actions of only a small number of his followers. I wanted to imagine what it might have been like for the people who were there watching him but whom we never read about.’
Rosie’s characters face problems which are experienced by many of today’s teenagers. Rueben struggles with a low self esteem. Caleb is guilty about his past. Esther feels abandoned by her sister. And Seth is trying to make sense of life.
‘For whatever reason, they all feel as though they are not ‘good’ people, but Jesus seeks them out anyway,’ Rosie says. ‘His love is there for the taking, and all they have to do is reach out for it.
The teenagers are changed by their encounters with Jesus. But they discover that getting to know him does not lead to a life that is problem-free.
Rosie says: ‘The gospel isn’t a magic wand. I wanted to get across to people that turning to Jesus is not like taking two spiritual painkillers that suddenly make everything perfect.’
As well as entertaining her readers Rosie wants to make them think. She intersperses the story with bible passages which correspond to the plot. And at the end of each chapter she poses questions.
‘I want people to enjoy the story but I also want them to ask themselves: “What has this got to do with them?” I hope people will learn from the Bible stories and see how they relate to their own lives.’
Rosie found some chapters unpleasant to write. Looking at Jesus’ crucifixion was she says, harrowing.
‘It tore me apart. When I wrote about Jesus being flogged, I could smell the blood. I could see the torn flesh. I realised that Jesus didn’t have a switch that he could flick to avoid feeling pain. He suffered mental anguish and physical agony on the cross.’
‘The depth of Jesus’ humanity kept hitting me. He got angry. He felt weary. But he still treated each person he met individually. He included everyone. He wasn’t a “holier-than-thou” person, yet his knife-edge message reached people in a way that they had never known before.
‘It also struck me the Jesus knows me inside out. Understanding that I am an open book to him can feel terrifying, but then I remember that Jesus sees everything in me and loves me anyway. That is overwhelming.’
As well as learning about Jesus, Rosie learnt a thing or two about herself while writing the book. ‘I had to be honest with myself in order to make my characters realistic,’ she explains. ‘So I had to face up to the fact that I am flawed. At times I have been hypocritical. I acknowledged the desire that I sometimes have to run away from God or withhold what he wants from me. Reflecting on my flaws was a challenging process.’
But the challenge seems to have paid off. Rosie’s book was published only a few weeks ago, but she has already heard about it being read by individuals, in school assemblies, in breakfast clubs and in all-age church groups. She believes that the story’s appeal lies not in her own literary talent but in the fact that the word of God is for everyone.
‘The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is about a love without conditions, a love that never ends. God’s love for us is so huge that no word can accurately describe it. We may hurt God sometimes by our actions, but we can’t ruin his love. It is far too robust for that. ‘God’s love – which he shows us through his son, Jesus – is beyond amazing.’ - The War Cry, 1st October 2011