Friday, April 16, 2010

Reviews: Magna and Making Waves

Last summer, I reviewed Book 1 and 2 in the Scenarios for Girls series -- TRUTH OR DARE and ALL THAT GLITTERS by Nicole O'Dell (you can read the reviews here and here.) Both Booking Daughter and I thoroughly enjoyed these "interactive fiction" books which allow the reader to put herself into the shoes of the main character. At a critical point in each of these books, the reader gets to decide what course of action she thinks the character will take. These books always include valuable messages about faith as well as "doing the right thing."

So when Ms. O'Dell contacted me and asked if I were interested in reading and reviewing the next two books in the series, Booking Daughter and I were happy to assist.

Summary: Molly Jacobs isn’t sure what she should do: Should she follow through with stealing some clothes for her friends from Magna—the trendy girls’ clothing store where she works? Or should she do what she knows is right, even if it means losing her newfound popularity? Girls ages 10 to 15 make the choice in this interactive story and see how the consequences change Molly’s life. Includes a contract and prayer to remind the reader of the importance of making godly decisions. -- Barbour

tells the story of Molly, a young teenage girl who gets a much-desired job at a popular clothing store. Molly and her two best friends all applied for a position at the store, but her two best friends didn't get the job.

Molly is extremely responsible and has a knack for putting together clothing ensembles and meeting the customers' needs. She immediately impresses the manager and puts herself on a fast track to management potential. The issue is that the popular older girls at school and her two best friends try to get Molly to do favors for them because of her position at the store.

Molly does make a few mistakes in this book to impress her friends that I considered to be pretty serious. She eventually realizes that she did the wrong thing and admits it to her boss (as she should have.) However, I really had an issue with Molly's "mistake." As smart and savvy as Molly was, it just didn't ring true for me that she wouldn't have understood the consequences of her actions. Having said that, I know that teens don't always have common sense; and I truly think Molly was a nice girl who just got in over her head.

When Molly's best friends ask for a huge favor, she feels the pressure and doesn't want to let them down. Molly knows for certain that she could risk her job if not more. What will Molly do?

Booking Daughter and I both thought that Molly would make the wrong decision, although we hoped she had learned her lesson. At the critical point in the book, we just felt as if she was more worried about keeping her friends happy than staying true to herself.

Some of the ethical issues discussed in this book include: actions and consequences, peer pressure, and the desire for material things.

Summary: Decisions, decisions! How is a girl supposed to choose? Lessons of right and wrong are put to the test in the Scenarios series, where you can test your decision-making abilities in an eye-opening, but safe, way. Each book follows a character up to the point where she has to make an important, life-changing decision—then it’s your turn to choose. Will your choices lead to a happy ending? -- Barbour

SCENARIOS FOR GIRLS 4: MAKING WAVES was definitely our favorite of the two. We both agreed that the storyline was more interesting and the character of Kate was much more likable and real to us.

In MAKING WAVES, Kate is a young teenager who feels a little lost. Her father died a few years ago and her best friend recently moved away. Since she enjoys swimming (and finds that swimming is therapeutic for her), she decides to join her high school's swim team. She discovers that she has a natural talent for swimming and she quickly becomes the star of the team.

Kate faces a lot of issues in the book that comes with a "celebrity" status. She feels some insecurities because she doesn't want to upstage the older girls, and she also succumbs to peer pressure so she can be part of the team. In addition, she puts a tremendous amount of pressure on herself to break records and earn a scholarship to college. Kate finds that balancing a sport, school, friends, and her church life can be challenging to say the least; and she finds herself absolutely exhausted. It's at this point that Kate begins to make some questionable decisions.

How far is Kate willing to go to be the best? That's the dilemma that she faces in this book. Both Booking Daughter and I agreed that Kate was a smart girl and that she had her priorities in place -- she just needed some time to figure things out. We think she probably made the "right" decision!

Some of the lessons in the book include: not taking unknown legal substances or illegal drugs, being cautious about dating relationships, and not being afraid to share your faith with others.

For MAGNA and MAKING WAVES, we ended up reading both of the scenarios as we've done for all four books. I liked the end results from either decision, and I especially appreciated the messages. One very important message that resonates throughout both stories is the theme of forgiveness -- learning to forgive yourself as well as asking for God's (and other's) forgiveness.

Another positive aspect of these books is the section in the back called "My Decision" which includes a prayer asking for God's help with many of the ethical issues that the characters faced in the book. In addition, there is a place where the reader can sign a pledge that she has learned from the choices that the characters made. There are also specific references to the lessons that the reader should have taken away from the book.

As a mother, I can't recommend these books enough for young girls. There is a pretty strong Christian message (which I think is terrific), but it might come across slightly heavy-handed to some parents. I think Ms. O'Dell's messages are wonderful and they are perfectly stated for a middle grade audience.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me review copies of this book.


bermudaonion said...

In some ways, having the character make a mistake and then rectifying it is a better lesson than having her do the right thing immediately. That way, young readers can see that they can learn from their mistakes. Great reviews!

Beth F said...

I agree, great reviews. I like the way these books are set up and am keeping them in mind for my great-niece is old enough for them.