I would like to know if it comes across as anti-christian or has inappropriate content for a middle-school age child. I would have loved Philip Pullman's Golden Compass series as it was very exciting and well written but so anti-Christian that it was obvious that the author has a vendetta against Christianity and feels that it is his job to plant that hatefulness in young children's minds. He obviously had a very hurtful experience as a child and blames all of Christianity for it instead of the person/persons who caused it. I don't want my kids to soak that up as we are Christians.
I noticed in a review for "Life As We Knew It" a reference to a friend who has a "born again" experience and then in another review a reference for a friend who joins a cult. Which way does it really come across? Is the "born again" friend portrayed positively or as an idiot/hindrance to society?
I am not a religious person. In fact, I was verbally and emotionally abused by some members of a church group I tried to join as a teenager and haven't exactly felt very warm and fuzzy about the religion since However, I can understand why people are Christian and other religions as well, because I work with the elderly and see how much they are comforted by it in their time of need. So I think that makes me pretty impartial.
That being said, I think there is a way to bring this literature to your children without presenting it in a non-christian way. While the Christian characters in the story are kind of insane and obviously part of a cult, this could be presented as a learning experience to your children. While most sects of Christianity have the best intentions, there are some that are, lets face it, actually doing these sort of cult-like things. I think kids need to realize that there's both good and bad in each religion, and just because someone is putting a label on it and saying it's Christianity, doesn't mean that it's the same form of Christianity you follow. Kids need to know that all religions get a bad rap sometimes even though the basis of the religion is good (case in point: Islam).
I would still suggest having your kids read Pullman's His Dark Materials series, just maybe at an older age when they have already formed their own opinions of Christianity and will not be as easily swayed as they will at this age.
Also, religion is not an over-whelming theme in this book like it is in His Dark Materials. It is a plot point associated with the main character's friend who she rarely sees, and doesn't talk to often. And in the beginning, it focuses mostly on how annoying it is when someone is trying to convert you to their religion when you don't want to (which lets face it, no matter what your religion is, that's annoying). It's not a little later that you realize that this girl has pretty much joined a cult (I would not say "born again" as her behaviors are basically insane... like cult insane).
Edit: In the second book, The World We Live In, the characters are very religious, and that's actually what helps them cope with the situation. It depicts Christianity in a more positive light. However it is a little bit darker then the first book, and probably shouldn't be read by small children. It creeped me out and I'm in my mid-twenties.
As a Christian also, I would say that this book does not portray Christianity in the best light. One character is very "religious" (born again) and serves a cult-like pastor. However, I think the rest of the book merits attention, despite this potentially offensive element. The themes of selflessness and family are worthwhile. It is also a great catalyst for discussion of charity. When do you give? When don't you? Also, the author portrays Christianity better in the next book (The World We Live In). Warning, there is a bit of idolatry/pagan ceremony in the next book, but it is portrayed as ridiculous and odd, and it isn't violent. I wouldn't recommend this for younger (under 12yo) or less discerning readers, but I am having my 14yo son read it and he is able to overlook the skewed portrayal of Chrisitanity.