Looking for something to use with your preteen girls group? Nicole O’Dell’s Interactive Fiction for Girls may be a great option. This Spring, we ran an Appleseeds program (we recently changed the name to Faithgirls) for our preteen girls. While the content in the Appleseeds book was solid, it wasn’t always the most engaging material for the girls. I was looking for something new when I stumbled upon this series published by Barbour Publishing. The company was kind enough to send me all four books in the series, the first of which I gobbled up in about a day and a half.
What’s the Book All About?
I thought Truth or Dare, the first in the Scenarios series, might be like the Choose Your Own Adventure books I used to read as a kid, but the format is a bit different. The first half the book shares the story of four best friends who are entering the eighth grade. They are both nervous and excited, and sure that they will be able to face whatever comes their way as long as they stick together. However, problems begin to arise when the group starts to play “Truth or Dare” at their weekly Friday night sleep-overs. Lindsay, the only Christian in the group, is faced with a critical choice when she is pressured into choosing a Dare. Does she choose her morals and risk ridicule from her friends? Or is she strong enough to stand alone?
A Choice To Make…
This is where you, as a reader, make a choice. Do you choose the Dare or say no to your friends? Depending on the choice, you turn to a certain page and finish the story. Both endings are thought-provoking, realistic, and compelling.
What’s Great About this Book
- The believability of the characters and scenarios. I can see preteen girls getting hooked on this series right away. The four friends are each unique, like-able, and realistic. They all have strengths and weaknesses which young readers could readily relate to.
- The beautiful way O’Dell integrates Lindsay’s faith into everyday living. This is something preteens struggle with. Where does my faith fit into my decision making? In the beginning of the book, Lindsay attends church with her family. Readers get to read the sermon and then Lindsay’s thoughts as she wrestles with how to really apply it to her life. Again and again, the points in this sermon pop up throughout the book as Lindsay is faced with different choices.
- The honesty about the trials of Christianity. Lindsay struggles with being the only Christian in her group of friends. She sometimes feels left out because she has stricter rules or different morals to guide her life. She also struggles with being like Christ. She shares at a youth group campfire about how it’s easier to focus on herself than to really try to be like Christ. I think this chapter will be a great discussion starter among the girls. Very real life.
- The realistic choices the girls have to face. Throughout Truth or Dare, the girls learn the importance of respecting other people’s things, how easily feelings can be hurt, and the dangers of alcohol (and smoking). Avoiding the appearance of evil is a big theme in this book, and it’s interwoven throughout the story-line wonderfully.
- The transparency of the characters. Even though Lindsay is the main character in this book, the reader is exposed to many of the thoughts and inner feelings of the other girls as well. O’Dell does a great job of balancing the strong friendship of the girls without making it seem too Utopian.
- The great relationship between kids and their parents, especially Lindsay. Lindsay respected what her parents had to say and truly considered their wisdom when she was in a tricky situation. I’m glad to see parents were presented in such a positive light in this book.
- The power of forgiveness. Forgiveness was freely given among this book, based on Christ’s forgiveness of us. It was great to see people willing to forgive instead of holding grudges, another common struggle among preteen girls.
What’s Not so Great
- I would have loved to see some discussion questions at the end of each chapter (or in the back of the book). Since we’ll be using this series for our preteen girls small group, that would have saved me some work! However, the book is so well written, it will be easy to pick up on themes and draft up my own (maybe I’ll post them when I’m done — check back this October!)
- I liked the first scenario (where Lindsay said no to the dare) better. I’m not sure if it’s because I didn’t have anything to compare it to (so it had an unfair advantage) or if it seemed more realistic than that second scenario. I can’t see a preteen going to talk to the Pastor and all her friends’ moms on her own volition, although it is something admirable to have the girls aspire to. Certainly, it made for a beautiful ending to a bad choice. Even though Lindsay’s actions seem like a bit of a stretch, I wouldn’t have wanted her to do anything else. She did the right thing by making amends, realistic or not. Perhaps it’s time we stopped focusing on “realistic” and starting focusing on “right”. Lindsay is a great model for young girls.
Wow. I am completely impressed. If the other three books are as good as this first book, I won’t be looking for new small group material for awhile. Great job!