Book Review: Convicted by Jameel McGee & Andrew Collins

Hello, dear friends. I’m reviving my blog for a while because I have a lot to say. Specifically, I’d like to share some books and projects that I’ve enjoyed in the last few months.

To set the stage, I have the immense privilege of helping launch several books from publishers and authors whose work I believe in. I hate selling a product, but I love sharing what I’m passionate about.

And the book I’d like to review here has gripped me.

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When I signed onto the specific launch team for Convicted, I wasn’t entirely sure what the book was about. It sat on my shelf for a couple weeks while I tended to other reading and projects. As soon as I picked it up, though, I could not pull myself away from it.

It’s not the writing of this book that draws in the reader. No–the writing is adequate, but nothing special.

Instead, this book has the mark of an authentic transformation in two broken men that can happen only by the power and grace of Jesus.

The true story takes place in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Just across the river is another town, St. Joseph. One of these towns is primarily African-American and riddled with distrust, brokenness, and hurt. The other is a thriving tourist trap. I’ll let you guess on which side of the tracks this book takes place.

As I read this book, I recognized this setting. On a recent ministry trip I led with Liberty University to Baltimore, my team spent one morning planting trees in a rough neighborhood on a street corner specifically known for drug activity. Just a few blocks away was Inner Harbor–the part of Baltimore you’ve heard of. It’s a magnet for visitors. It’s where you go to “see Baltimore.” But racial tensions bubble under the surface, ready to blow up just like we saw plastered across the news in 2015.

While we were there, the church we partnered with also sent us on a prayer walk. It was no more than a few blocks. As we walked in a straight line, it was like traveling through entire cities: we passed through pristine, upper-class housing, followed by a Hispanic section, and finally we entered a primarily African-American neighborhood so run-down and battered that I hesitated to allow the college students in my care to keep walking for fear of encountering trouble.

It’s tempting to to think of “bad” neighborhoods as far removed from our safe suburbs. But they’re right next to the facades that we frequent. And they’re filled with stories: true stories of hurt and devastation and hopelessness.

Out of this setting, the hurting town of Benton Harbor, Convicted tells the story of another crooked cop. Another innocent African-American man.

I’m tired of these stories. I know you are too.

But this story demonstrates the way that Jesus works in the most broken and depraved situations. Andrew truly was a bad cop. Awful, in fact. He broke the public’s trust in law enforcement and acted selfishly and recklessly. He lays it all out in this book, and the depth of his corruption made my skin crawl.

And Jameel was truly innocent. He has been the victim of so many circumstances embedded in his environment. He was so badly victimized by Andrew.

And this is the story of how they found forgiveness and hope in Jesus, then found forgiveness and hope in one another. This book gives them both a voice, and it shows us who Jesus is in the worst of circumstances.

Convicted will be published on September 19, 2017. It’s timely for our world today. We’re still wrestling with bad cops, innocent black men, racial tensions and divide, and sin in our world. We need the message of this book that anyone can find healing in Jesus and in honest relationship with one another.

A line from coauthor Mark Tabb’s author’s note summarizes the deep purpose that this book has for those who read it: “Convicted is only one story of life in Benton Harbor. Maybe its hopeful ending is just what this town–and all of us–need.”

If you are interested in this book, you can pre-order at www.ConvictedBook.com.

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