Wednesday, May 21, 2014

WWRW: The Gate

It is with distinct pleasure that I highly recommend Nancy Carabio Belanger’s latest triumphant YA novel, The Gate.  I only wish it had been around when my five sons were in junior high!
I have already read this acclaimed Catholic author’s award-winning Olivia and the Little Way; this 5-star must-read is an engaging, superbly written novel that imparts some vitally important messages to impressionable young readers (and as a bonus, introduces them to Saint Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower,” who is a favorite saint of the author).  Olivia and the Litte Way is not just for junior high girls, however; it is a delight for adult readers as well, as I can personally attest.  I’ve been looking forward to reading its sequel, Olivia’s Gift, which sits at the top of my “to read” pile.

I am a huge fan of the Olivia series, obviously; but as a mother who raised only sons, I have often bemoaned the fact that much of the modern young adult fiction out there seems to be targeted at female readers.  So when I heard about The Gate, which stars a troubled 13-year-old boy named Joshua Lasko and a baseball-loving, crotchey senior citizen named Pietro “Pie” Leone, I simply had to put Olivia’s Gift on hold and read it right away.

The reader is introduced to Josh, a troubled 8th grader and only child who has been a bit lost since the death of his father two years ago.  Once a happy, church-going, clean-living kid who did well in school (a former altar boy, for goodness sake!), Josh no longer really cares about anything—that is, besides the latest violent video game that he wants to buy.  Finding a way to get the money for this game, of which his mom would never approve, is his obsession; and meanwhile his grades are slipping, he’s losing his faith, and he’s heading for some serious trouble.  His mother is now a single parent who has to work long hours, and she and Josh are struggling to stay connected.

When Josh’s class takes a field trip to the senior center, to meet the elderly pen pals they are being assigned as part of a school project, Josh is thrown together with a grumpy old guy named “Pie,” who is recovering from surgery and itching to get healed up so he can go back to his normal life—whatever that might be.  Little does Josh suspect at first, but this will prove to be one of the most meaningful and significant relationships of his life.  As time goes on, Josh and Pie develop a unique friendship.  Pie teaches his young protégé about baseball, pizza-making, and most importantly, the Catholic Faith—about which he seems to know more than the average Joe.  Pie is a mentor who enters Josh’s life at a crucial time, when the boy has begun to lose sight of the difference between right and wrong and is sorely missing a father’s influence.  Once Pie enters the picture, Josh starts down a new path and he is forever changed.

If you’re a Red Sox fan (like yours truly), Pie might get on your nerves.  He’s a dyed-in-the-wool Yankees fan—but that’s my only complaint about him!  Besides that one glaring flaw in his make-up, he is one of the most lovable, memorable characters I have ever come across in fiction—YA or otherwise.  He does for young Josh what St. John Bosco did for so many troubled street boys in 19th-century Turin, Italy.  (And bonus: Just as the Olivia books tell about St. Therese and her “Little Way,” through this book the reader will learn more about wonderful Don Bosco, to whom Pie Leone is very devoted.)

In a recent interview on, Belanger was asked why she writes.  Her answer is the key to why her books are so needed in this day and age, when God has been all but banished from the classroom: “I write,” she answered, “because Catholic pre-teens are not being fed…I write for the young souls God loves so very much.  I write to show them the beauty of the One True Faith which is Catholicism.”

To that, all I can say is: mission accomplished!

In that same interview, when asked, “What one project do you daydream about accomplishing as a writer—your magnum opus?”, this gifted writer answered, “I am telling the truth when I say it was The Gate.”

Again, mission accomplished!  The Gate is indeed a magnum opus.  And although it's perfect for young male readers,  it's certainly not just for kids.  It'll knock your socks off, trust me.  The characters are fully-developed and unforgettable, and the plot draws the reader in from page one.  This novel is a celebration of faith, hope, charity, and love; it is a celebration of the Christian family; it is a celebration of the priestly vocation; and ultimately, it is a celebration of all that is good and true about the Holy Catholic Church. 

Now over to Jessica's with you!


  1. Wow; thanks for the great recommendations.

  2. Thank you for this review. Best wishes.

    God bless.

  3. I very much enjoyed Olivia and the Little Way. Thank you for pointing towards good Catholic fiction!