This book was advertised as middle school Christian fiction, and it certainly embodies the norms of that genre. The protagonist is Collette, a Christian teenage girl, struggling with the problems of relating to non-Christians in her school and home environment, having to cope with being attracted to a non-Christian boy in her class, and having to endure the bullying from a rival.
If you were to pick up the book as a non-Christian, however, the title would be a real puzzle, as, from a secular point of view, Collette is irritatingly close to perfect – pretty, intelligent, sympathetic (mostly) and with a strong family supporting her. Only when you get past the exterior and into Collette’s mind do you see the less-than-perfect creation that the Christian lives with – full of doubt, too often thinking uncharitably of people, even if somehow you manage to stop the impulse to utter the unkind word or repay mischief with mischief.
The early chapters concentrate on showing Collette’s strong relationship with her mother, so that when the crisis comes, and Collette is unable to turn to her mother, her other friends must come to her aid. Fortunately, by then Collette has begun to master her selfish impulses, and her enemies have begun to respond to her agape-love.
The book is aimed squarely at reassuring its young, female teenage Christian readership that prayer and Christ-inspired selflessness will triumph over all adversity. Certainly for Collette all ends happily, but if I had to pick out a weakness, it is that it does have such a pat ending. Very few humans, Christians or not, will recognise such a neat-and-tidy life.
So the book belongs firmly with moral fables, demonstrating the ideal, but glossing over the messiness of real life as it makes its point. I imagine it would work in a church youth group, as a read-and-discuss exercise.
So how to rate it? It is what it is – Christian pre-YA fiction – and it would be unfair to judge it against the standards of secular fiction. However, there is some Christian fiction aimed at a more adult market that is genuinely thrilling, where people suffer, and fall from grace, and are sometimes, but not always redeemed. It should be possible to incorporate greater tension, and more uncertainty about the outcome, while still staying true to Christian teaching, and being a better outreach.
My verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.
A final, minor, point. The PDF I read suffered from an irritating inconsistency in typesetting, switching unpredictably between serif and sans-serif fonts. Probably caused by mixing styles and default formatting in the original manuscript, but it could do with a final proofing pass.