Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Book Review: Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens edited by Leigh Finke

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, a STARRED review, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal.

Queerfully and Wonderfully Made: A Guide for LGBTQ+ Christian Teens

Beaming Bks. Aug. 2020. 260p. ed. by Finke, Leigh, ed. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781506465241.

 Gr 7 Up–This indispensable and compassionate guide for queer Christians challenges heteronormativity and cisgender as the default. The text pushes back against a culture of silence, invisibility, alienating theology, and close-minded attitudes. Teens are encouraged to express and explore their authentic selves. Chapters cover topics such as definitions of labels, how teens can deal with and protect themselves from unsupportive adults, self-care, getting accurate information, possible reactions and questions, discrimination, coming out, parental rejection, conversion therapy, and consent. There is some discussion of biblical evidence supporting or refuting various ideas, but the emphasis is on making sure readers know that being queer is completely okay and not incompatible with faith. Additionally, the text stresses that if teens feel fear or shame, their church and community have let them down. Graphs, statistics, text boxes, illustrations, and short personal narratives break up the main text. Back matter includes a glossary as well as a comprehensive resource list. Written by a team of contributors with backgrounds in mental health, ministry, art, education, and LGBTQ+ advocacy, this fantastic resource never stops reminding readers that they have value and deserve to live a full, beautiful life.

VERDICT An affirming, thorough, and supportive guide for understanding one’s identity as well as a pertinent resource for LGBTQ+ allies.

Book Review: Have a Little Faith in Me by Sonia Hartl

Publisher’s description

“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.

Amanda’s thoughts

I enjoyed this a ton for so many reasons, both personal and because of how great this book was. Once upon a time, I was a teenager, waaaay back in the 90s, and I loved a boy who became a born-again Christian. I related hardcore to a lot of what CeCe feels and experiences here. Maybe someday, if the publishing gods comply, you will be able to read my novel tackling similar ground.

The best part about this novel is how it manages to feel both predictable and unexpected at the same time. We can guess that chasing her ex to Jesus camp probably won’t result in them getting back together. And we can guess what may happen with CeCe and her best friend Paul fake dating, because when has fake dating ever led to anything but realizing actual feelings? That said, Hartl makes everything that happens along the way to these realizations take twists that are interesting, emotional, and unexpected to even CeCe. The writing is solid, the dynamic between Paul and CeCe is great (really amusing banter and fantastic emotional honesty), and the setting is unique. CeCe is totally out of her element at camp (Paul’s helpful advice to her: “Try not to talk.”) and while it’s at times awkward and cringe-worthy, something surprising happens: CeCe stands up for herself and really all other girls, finding her voice and friendship along the way.

This is a fun, standout story about self-examination, self-discovery, friendship, sex education, consent, and honesty. CeCe, who has been made to feel insecure, insignificant, and unworthy by her crappy ex-boyfriend, learns that her experiences and her voice matter, that she has nothing to feel ashamed of, and that she’s not less-than just because she’s not Christian. CeCe and her bunkmates learn that you’re more than what people say you are, and that you’re more than what your labels, your experiences, and your own notions about who you are and what you can do/think/like add up to. A great read.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9781624147975
Publisher: Page Street Publishing
Publication date: 09/03/2019