Seventeen-year-old bookish Andy has no friends. When her over-involved mother has the audacity to ship her off to summer leadership camp, she’s thrust into an introvert’s nightmare. Everyone is a Communicator with a capital C, icebreaker activities are scheduled into every waking moment, and horror of all horrors: there’s no coffee. Even the girls who take her under their wing are the kind of self-assured people Andy could never dream of becoming.
Then she meets Lucas‐‐hot, attentive, and everything Andy reads about in her books. Though the girls in her cottage try to warn her about him, she’s swept into the first romance of her life. But when she discovers her friends may be right, she’ll have to find her inner confidence to save her summer and become the leader she was always meant to be.
I’ve been in the mood for a good summer camp book lately (probably since I posted this list of ten great summer camp books). This book had all the things I was looking for: summer camp nerves, goofy group activities, unexpected but wonderful new friendships, and a summer romance!
As an introvert, I really appreciated a lot of Andy’s experiences. I especially appreciated her need for alone time and how often she felt like that was brushed off or negatively viewed. The scenes where people treat her as if her problem is simply shyness and that the solution is to push her “out of her comfort zone” also really resonated with me.
I think my favorite moments were the ones in which people quietly noticed or praised her leadership style, recognizing that it was different than the louder, rah-rah style of some of the other campers and counselors but often equally effective. I loved that. It made me feel like the author had some expertise or knowledge about ways that introverts lead versus extroverts. It made me think of QUIET by Susan Cain, which I heartily recommend to any introvert or person connected to one.
Anyway, I stayed up way too late finishing this book because I really wanted to know what would happen. I was a little disappointed in the ending simply because I hoped for a different outcome. I can really see how the ending fits and centers Andy’s character.
Would I read a follow-up to this book? Definitely. Because of the way it ends, I’m hoping there will be one. If you’re looking for a fun summer camp read, check this one out.
Recommended for Ages 14 up.
Representation Major characters are white. One of Andy’s friends appears romantically interested in people of more than one gender. Andy has anxiety/panic attacks.
Profanity/Crude Language Content Mild profanity used pretty infrequently. In one scene, someone starts to say the F word but is cut off.
Romance/Sexual Content Kissing between boy and girl. In one scene, a girl removes her shirt and states that she’s interested in doing more than kissing. What exactly she does is left vague beyond that, though.
Spiritual Content None.
Violent Content Andy experiences anxiety in a lot of situations at camp, including being forced into public speaking and during a swimming test. She has a panic attack while climbing a rock wall.
Boys prank a girl by pretending to be a bear while she’s out in the woods in the dark. A boy throws a girl into the lake while she’s asking him not to. He knows she’s not a strong swimmer. In both instances, the boys are confronted and apologize.
Drug Content In one brief scene, Andy walks past some kids who are using a vape pen to smoke weed.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of ANDY AND THE EXTROVERTS in exchange for my honest review.
You want your daughter to thrive–to be strong, confident, and equipped to step into the life God has for her.
But what if the church is setting your daughter up to be small?
Armed with data from an all-new survey of over 7,000 women, the authors of THE GREAT SEX RESCUE reveal how experiences in church as teens affect women’s self-esteem and relationships today. They expose common evangelical teachings that can backfire–the purity emphasis that can cause shame rather than good choices, the dating rules that can prime your daughter for abuse, and the one overarching belief that can keep her from setting healthy boundaries.
Instead, the authors advocate biblically grounded, freeing messages that are more about the dos and less about the don’ts. By reframing (and sometimes replacing) common evangelical messages to teen girls, this book will equip you to raise a daughter who can navigate the tumultuous teenage years while still clinging tightly to Jesus.
You can raise your daughter with the discernment to resist toxic teachings. Because she deserves better than a faith that keeps her small.
“Sheila, Rebecca, and Joanna are an all-star team, confronting the harm done to our daughters in both the church and the world. The title says it all. Full stop. Our daughters deserve better! This book is full of thorough research, refreshingly commonsense biblical wisdom, and practical help on how to talk with our daughters and prepare them for confidence and maturity.”–Aimee Byrd, author of The Sexual Reformation –This text refers to the paperback edition.
Why I’m Reviewing She Deserves Better
I’m finding writing up my review to be a bit overwhelming, so I’m going to break it down into sections to help me focus my thoughts. First, let’s talk about why I decided to review this book.
I was raised in what would now probably be identified as a fundamentalist/evangelical church. To be honest, I had some good and bad experiences there. That complexity sometimes makes it hard for me to sort out my feelings about certain faith-based things. Though I am still myself a Christian, I am not part of the evangelical community. I once heard someone describe her family as Liberal Christians, and I would say that’s a label that’s closer to accurate for me.
Periodically, I dip my toes into the Christian literary market to try to find books and resources that resonate with me and are things I can confidently promote. Sometimes I regret it. But other times I find books that deeply energize me and encourage me in my faith journey.
I first heard about SHE DESERVES BETTER on one of the authors’ Twitter pages during some discourse about church scandals and the treatment of women in the church. As I read more of the posts on the author’s page, I found I agreed with several of her statements. When I noticed she was part of a team of three women who had a book for moms and daughters coming out, I decided to try to get a copy for review.
Rejecting Purity Culture But Replacing It with… What?
My home growing up didn’t adhere to some fundamentalist ideas, (my mom has always been an assertive person who expresses her views, for example) but we were part of a church community that absolutely preached the values and ideas of purity culture.
While I’ve rejected… most? all? I’m not thoroughly sure here… of those ideas, I’ve struggled to find healthier/more reasonable ways to express what I do believe about some of these issues. For example, I recently had a conversation with a family member about the way my daughter dresses. I don’t have a problem with the way she dresses, but this family member had some concerns and related those concerns in the language of purity culture. “She needs to remember there are boys in the house while she’s wearing those things,” etc.
I defended my daughter (the problem seemed to be that she’s young and curvy) and pretty plainly said that I would not make the burden of someone else’s possible thoughts her responsibility. But I struggled to explain my parental boundaries for her clothing choices. I do have them. But they’re about how she feels about herself and what she thinks about her body, not what someone else thinks. Still, I found myself wishing for a resource to help me quantify this and help me reassure my daughter. I also handle wanted better tools to handle people coming at me with purity culture complaints so I can respond in a way I find satisfying.
My Review of She Deserves Better
Lemme give you the nutshell version first. While I didn’t agree 100% with everything the authors said and how they said it, I came pretty close. I loved the premise of the book. I loved the consistent calls to do what is healthy and loving. The authors also state multiple times the importance of being in a church community that is itself healthy and supportive of young women. They go so far as to counsel families to leave churches with toxic teaching because of the potential damage it can cause. I recommend this book to anyone raised in purity culture and/or anyone raising girls in the church today.
Essentially, they studied the effects of the purity culture movement and other teachings that young women in evangelical churches are often still being taught today. A bible verse warns us to look at the outcomes of behavior using the metaphor of trees producing fruit. If a tree produces bad fruit, the tree should be cut down and tossed in the fire. So the authors break down different teachings and looks at the outcomes. For example, they look at the effects of teaching a girl that her outfit choice can cause a man to sin. Does this make her more likely to end up in an abusive marriage? Does it make her more likely to have low self-esteem? To report problems in her sexual relationship? (Yes to all these.) Things like that.
Tools to Process My Own Experiences and Teach My Daughter a Healthier Way
There were certain chapters that read like pages out of my own life. It was honestly pretty eerie. I’ve known for a long time that some things I believed in high school and shortly afterward were wrong and dangerous, but those beliefs absolutely cost me. They left me vulnerable to situations in which bad stuff happened. They left me feeling as though I didn’t have choices in things that happened, and that I didn’t have any allies to whom I could turn for support.
So. Yeah. I don’t want to pass any of that on to my daughter. We’ve done a lot of learning about consent and a lot of teaching about personal boundaries and expectations. All of the things I’ve learned about those topics lined up with what the authors were saying here in SHE DESERVES BETTER.
I loved that again and again the book comes back to asking the question, “what happens to girls who were raised with these teachings?” That’s so important. We know that some of these things are really harmful, and it’s time to stop teaching them, and to push back in spaces where they are still being taught.
Topics Explored in She Deserves Better
Here’s a list of some of the topics/teachings explored in the book:
How teachings regarding feelings, especially anxiety and depression, can impact a girl’s health and life.
How teachings on boundaries impact girls and the importance of teaching girls they can set personal boundaries and expect them to be respected.
How dating and dating rules impact a girl’s lifelong relationships.
Learning to and teaching girls to identify red flags for toxic or dangerous people.
How a comprehensive sex education empowers girls to be safer and happier longterm.
How teachings about consent impact girls (and boys).
How teachings about modesty or clothing choices impacts how girls see themselves and others.
How teachings about leadership and submission impact girls.
Each chapter gives examples from the authors’ research supporting their assertions. They also offer conversations topics and exercises that moms and daughters could work through together.
Recommended for Ages 16 up.
Representation Doesn’t specify race details in any of the text or example stories. The intended audience is evangelical Christians.
Profanity/Crude Language Content The authors use a metaphor about a candy that tasted delicious but caused explosive diarrhea to describe the harmfulness of teaching that looks or seems biblical at first but is not and causes harm.
Romance/Sexual Content A fair amount of the book focuses on the way parents and church leaders teach girls about sex and relationships. It discusses how those teachings impact the likelihood of good or bad outcomes (happy marriages versus abusive relationships, etc).
The authors talk about the damage caused by rejecting a child or their feelings if they come to you to reveal their gender or sexual identity. Essentially the authors point out that being a part of a faith community generally lowers a child’s chance of experiencing suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide unless they are LGBTQIA+. Then, participation in a church community actually increases the likelihood they’ll have those thoughts or attempts.
Later on, the authors refer to an LGBTQIA+ identity as an “unwanted identity”. I’m not sure from the context if they’re intending to speak globally or referring to the feelings of homophobic parents.
The authors very plainly ask parents to choose to validate and love their kids no matter the feelings they have. They emphasize the importance of support from within their faith community.
Spiritual Content The core premise of the book is to approach teachings about sex and modesty in the church and look at their effect on specifically women’s lives. Do those teachings bear good fruit, as described in Matthew 7:17-18?
Violent Content Brief mentions of domestic violence, assault and abusive relationships.
Drug Content Mentions of teens drinking alcohol and using drugs (as a negative behavior).
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of SHE DESERVES BETTER in exchange for my honest review.
The #MeToo movement has changed the way many people view the world, but how well do tweens understand it? Middle-grade readers are ready to learn about consent, harassment, and abuse, as well as healthy boundaries in all their relationships.
#MeToo and You includes essential terminology, from consent to assault, from just plain yes to just plain no. Author Halley Bondy explores the nuances of emotions, comfort, and discomfort in sexually charged and emotionally abusive situations. Detailed scenarios, both real and hypothetical, provide valuable examples of what’s acceptable and what is not, along with tools to help everyone treat others appropriately and to stand up for themselves and their peers.
One of the things I really liked about #MeToo and You is how practical it is. The first chapter focuses on some simple ways to tell if a relationship you’re in is safe and healthy or if it’s toxic and potentially abusive. That checklist can be used to evaluate any relationship, and it’s very easy to understand.
Throughout the book, the author will introduce a concept, such as a way to be a good ally, and then a story follows which illustrates the concept. Bondy also includes a breakdown of each story, discussing what the people involved did well or what things that happened were wrong.
I appreciated the section that talked about reporting and what someone’s rights are as well as what the reporting process can look like. While the author doesn’t sugarcoat any of it, and while the process still felt a bit overwhelming, I think it’s helpful information to have. Understanding the overview of the reporting process might help people feel more prepared to come forward to report abuse.
In every chapter, Bondy writes with sensitivity and though she’s frank, she also tries to be encouraging and to point readers to healthy, trustworthy resources. #MeToo and You includes a list of call centers and websites for help and support.
While this book won’t be for everyone as it includes some graphic content, I think it makes a good resource for people who’ve experienced abuse or assault or are in dangerous relationships and are trying to work out what to do next. #MeToo and You also makes a great resource for anyone looking to become a better ally and wants information about how to help someone in their life who has experienced or is currently experiencing abuse.
Recommended for Ages Readers ages 12 up could easily read the first chapter, which describes how to tell when a relationship is healthy vs. toxic or dangerous. Readers 14 up could read the whole book. (See the rest of the content section.)
Representation The author writes to include all gender identities and sexual orientations.
Profanity/Crude Language Content None.
Romance/Sexual Content– Trigger Warning for Descriptions of Sexual Assault/Abuse Each chapter heading has a section with any trigger warnings in it. The author encourages readers to read only the chapters they feel comfortable with. Chapters 2-6 contain some stories about people who’ve experienced sexual assault or abuse. A few of the stories give some brief graphic information. At the end of each story, the author breaks down what happened in terms of the outcome and what parts were toxic/wrong and what to do.
Spiritual Content None.
Violent Content See section on romance/sexual content.
Drug Content One victim’s story involves a young girl who drinks a beer given to her by an older boy. The drink was also drugged.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support running this blog. I received a free copy of REA AND THE BLOOD OF THE NECTAR in exchange for my honest review.
“Saved!” meets To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that takes a meaningful look at consent and what it means to give it.
When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.
Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity.
I love the voice in HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME. CeCe is perky and impulsive and lots of fun. The plot doesn’t really pretend to have big secrets– it’s a rom com, and all that goes with that– but it still kept me turning pages because I couldn’t wait to see what CeCe would get up to next.
It always feels a little dicey to me to read about Christian characters from the perspective of someone who feels like an outsider or belittles faith. While there are definitely some moments where Christian faith is treated like a joke or scam, for the most part, I feel like this book shows that some Christians are genuine, kind, loving people. One of CeCe’s conclusions, though, is that Christians (even the “good”, non-judgmental ones) use their beliefs to justify whatever they want to do. While she’s certainly not wrong about people doing that at times, it was kind of a blanket statement that didn’t get challenged even when she discovered she liked some of the other campers and believed them to be good people.
I also struggled with the idea in the story that modesty is about shame. This comes predominantly from one of the camp counselors who clearly doesn’t like CeCe and makes her wear a big ugly cover-up over her bikini bathing suit. CeCe’s takeaway from this and from a workshop taught by that counselor is that girls need to cover their bodies because boys can’t handle themselves if they see a bit of skin, and girls are responsible for any bad actions the boys take as a result of seeing female bodies.
While I think challenging that idea (that girls are responsible for bad choices boys make) is super important, what I felt was missing was any other explanation of modesty or any positive context for it. (Treating one’s body like it’s special and preserving privacy from a place of confidence, for example.) Instead, I felt like the story comes across with this message that modesty and shame are the same thing, and the only reasonable response is to bare it all to prove that there’s no reason to be ashamed.
Again, I believe it’s important to challenge any idea that makes girls responsible for someone else’s bad behavior. I just felt like the story didn’t leave room for any other conclusion besides making the choice to show off your body as much as possible, and I feel like that kind of shames girls who aren’t comfortable doing that.
Another big theme in the story is consent. I love that this topic is on the table and being explored in YA books so much. It’s super important and sometimes confusing. Showing examples of good consent is a great way to teach about the topic.
I liked that HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME shows both a good example of asking for consent and bad example of it. We see how CeCe feels in both situations, and we can understand why. One partner makes her feel valued and cared for, and the other partner makes her feel used and dirty. I thought it was a little weird that it’s a boy who’s educating CeCe about consent. Not that boys can’t be or shouldn’t be in the know on consent. I guess it just struck me as a little odd in a book that focuses so much on female empowerment that a boy is the one who shows her the way.
The relationships CeCe forms with her cabin mates were great. She didn’t expect to find the deep camaraderie and support from Christian girls that she found. Both learned things from the other. And it created a broader perspective on what it means to be a practicing Christian by showing that not everyone is the same.
On the theme of sexual exploration and encounters, some readers may find that there’s just too much explicit sexual content here for them to read comfortably. Like the issue of modesty, the story takes a pretty narrow position on sex. The message is that everyone is doing it or very soon will be, so explicit instruction is a must.
While I think it’s important for teens to have real facts and information about sex and to have safe spaces where they can ask questions, I felt like the story didn’t leave room for kids who aren’t ready or who would find themselves really uncomfortable discussing explicit things about sex in a crowd.
I guess all that to say that I had kind of mixed feelings about HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME. On the one hand, I enjoyed a lot of the adventure of the story and the humor and voice. And I’m a total sucker for the best-friend-to-boyfriend type of story, so I was pretty much hooked from the outset.
I do wish that there was better representation of alternative perspectives on modesty and sex, but I loved that the story explores and fosters conversations about consent and how important it is.
Recommended for Ages 17 up.
Representation CeCe and Paul are both white/straight. They attend a summer camp with a lot of Christian kids. One minor character tells CeCe that she’s interested in both girls and boys.
Profanity/Crude Language Content Extreme profanity used infrequently. Crude language used infrequently.
Romance/Sexual Content Kissing between boy and girl. References to sex. Explicit descriptions of sex and one scene explicitly showing sex.
Spiritual Content CeCe isn’t a Christian and Paul no longer has Christian beliefs, but both attend a Christian summer camp and pretend to share faith with the other campers. Some of the other campers show love and acceptance even when it becomes obvious that CeCe and Paul don’t share their beliefs, but others are judgmental and fearful.
Violent Content None.
Drug Content None.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support the costs of running this blog. I received a free copy of HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME in exchange for my honest review.
In the midst of Haley’s recovery from a concussion, she learns her roommate has been raped. As Jenny wrestles with the aftermath of the trauma, she’s faced with a lot of decisions: should she report the incident to the college? Should she go to the police? She depends on Haley for support, a burden which Haley isn’t sure she’s capable of shouldering. Especially when a group of aggressive feminists rally around Jenny to support her and convince her to respond the way they believe is best.
In this midst of all this, Haley meets Richard, a handsome fellow student and math tutor. Just when it seems she may have, for the first time, found someone special, she learns that Richard lives in the same house with the boy who raped Jenny. Worse still, he recently dated the gorgeous lead feminist. (She dumped him for his chauvinistic attitudes, another fact that makes Haley nervous.)
The two struggle to navigate the new relationship in the midst of the crisis, and it’s not easy. Rumors, distrust and scandal show up at every turn. If there’s any hope of a future for them, Haley and Richard will have to find out the truth about what happened to Jenny and resolve for themselves what constitutes sexual consent.
This was a tough read. (I feel like I’m saying that a lot lately.) I liked that rather than the story being from the point-of-view of the victim and perpetrator, it’s told from the perspective of bystanders. There’s a lot of hope in the development of Haley and Richard’s relationship, and a lot of opportunity for healing.
Wrecked brings a lot of great moments offering discussion on consent. It sheds light on the process a rape victim might go through as she reports the incident and the information becomes relatively public. It shows how an entitled college kid could take advantage of a girl almost without realizing it.
He should have realized it. That’s kind of the point. But honestly, isn’t this another reason that getting drunk at a party like this is a terrible idea? Would he have realized, had he been sober, that this girl was in no position to give him her consent, and that she in fact was only barely conscious? Because that’s another conversation we need to be having.
His inebriation doesn’t excuse him anymore than it would if he’d chosen to get behind the wheel of a car. But I’m not sure we’re doing a great job educating kids about this either. As a culture, don’t we sort of treat college drinking—sometimes even teen drinking—like some kind of rite of passage? At any rate, I’d have liked to see that connection between drinking and making bad—criminal, in this case—decisions more clearly drawn in Wrecked, but even without it, the focus on the consent issue was very well-done.
More and more I’m convinced that consent is a conversation we need to have and aren’t having enough. I think Padian presented a wide array of responses to the topic in Wrecked, from the uber-politically-correct feminists to the creepazoid guy who spearheads a slander campaign against Jenny on social media. If this isn’t a conversation-starter, I don’t know what is.
Most characters appear to be white middle- or upper-class. One character is African-American.
Profanity/Crude Language Content
Strong profanity used moderately throughout the book.
Romance/Sexual Content – TRIGGER WARNING We learn Jenny’s account of her experience through what she says in a hearing as well as in a real-time scene describing what happens to her. A boy has sex with her while she’s just in and out of consciousness. It’s described explicitly.
Richard reflects on his relationship with Carrie, and at one point begins to tell her that he enjoyed how assertive she was with him the night before. (That’s pretty much as explicit as he gets.) Later, another girl interested in him laments her status as a virgin. She worries that the fact that he has sexual experience will mean that he’s not interested in her or won’t respect her boundaries. She doesn’t feel committed to her virginity, she’s just inexperienced thus far.
Spiritual Content None.
Violent Content See sexual content. The rape isn’t violent in terms of the boy doesn’t attack her, though it’s no less wrong or traumatic.
College students drink alcohol at parties and beforehand. Rumors state that one boy who mixed drinks for a party may have added drugs to them.
Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.