My niece has complained many times about my significant lack of ‘girl fiction’ in my own personal junior fiction library (which is only slightly smaller than my adult fiction library).   Yes, it’s true.  I gravitate towards the action, male lead genre.  Why?  Next to those testosterone driven tales of heroism and adventure, girl fiction seems pale and limp.. and the girl books nearly always seem to revolve around so many petty (to me) emotional issues.  A friend saying something that offends and a yearlong resolution process might be the sole plot of an entire girl-fiction book.   Or perhaps the plot is deeper, more serious and appropriate leading to meaningful dialogue.  “He’s so cute!” “I KNNOOO-OOW!!!!” “He looked at me for 10 seconds before math class, do you think he likes me?” G.R.O.A.N.!

With that as my overall opinion, you can easily see why junior fiction authors like Peretti and Lee Roddy and good series such as the Accidental Detectives, which while enjoyable by girls (I like them!) are certainly more oriented to the male crowd, take precedence over the ‘girlier’ titles.

Nevertheless, I have found myself in possession of two very girly daughters who will someday want to read a series OTHER than Little House on the Prairie and Unfortunate Events type literature once in a while.  With that I mind, I volunteered to read and review “Here’s Lily” by Nancy Rue.

First, I should say that the very pink cover with flowers on the edge and a friendly looking girl was extremely inviting to the girly girl.  My 6 year old daughter who is still working on fluently reading books like “Pan and the Mad Man” immediately picked it up and said she would read it when I was done.   I have half expected her to cart it off to one of her secret ‘stashaway’ bags because it is so OBVIOUSLY hers.  I did wonder if the cover would turn off the tween crowd who may think they are beyond cartoons and pink flowers, but when I looked up the other books online I found they have photographic style covers.  No concern there then.  You can get the same book in an ‘older’ cover if that is your wish.

Something has to hold your interest beyond the cover, though, and that is honestly what concerned me.   I prepared myself for the usual ‘girl drama’ and indulged in one martyr sigh and began an internal mantra “I’m doing this for my girls.  I’m doing this for my girls.”

The first two chapters set the stage for Lily, a young girl who is dealing with the typical school age issues, a boy who enjoys tormenting her, girls who are unkind and the desire to rise above and display poise despite it all.  So far, so good.  Chapter 3, though won me over.  They introduce you to Lily’s family.  Surprise!  The mom isn’t a girly girl.  She hates clothes shopping.  They don’t do a lot of ‘touchy-feely-self-esteem building’ in the home.  It’s more a teasing atmosphere with two ornery (and sometimes insulting) brothers, a gallant father and the mom who just isn’t into the girl things.  Yes, this is PERFECT for my girls.  Spot on except lacking a sister or two.

But it gets better.

Much better.

It turns out that Lily is invited to a modeling school.  (I know, groan, right?)  Her parents aren’t psyched about it.  They are far more in tune with the baseball/volleyball/pep band scene and aren’t really understanding why they should get excited about a girl using her gifts to sell clothes.  (Really, I’m not the only one?)  Lily points out that if the older brother wanted to play a new instrument, they’d let him.  “He’s a musician!”, they say.  If the younger one wanted to do another sport, they’d let him. “He’s an athlete!”, they say.  Lily wisely points out that she doesn’t know what she is, but that this is what she wants to do.  They allow the class, but maintain reservations about letting her sign on as an actual model.   Then they encourage her to ‘find out what God has for you in this’.  (No, not in a corny, preachy way… it flows naturally.) So in the midst of the modeling course (which I am pleased to report doesn’t involve a lot of makeup or anything that the whole ‘tots/tiaras’ type shows might bring to mind and instead focuses on poise, accentuating their best features rather than trying to change or even identify the ones they dislike) she finds that she’s a natural at this.  She finds that knowing she’s a natural and practicing poise for modeling sake gives her the poise to handle mean boys and rude comments and even her own family without getting so very frustrated.  She starts a club (every girl book has a club, right?) for girls that get picked on.  She teaches them poise and makes the rule that they will not say unkind things to one another.

She is allowed to star in a modeling show at the end of the course… and then there is a horrible grease fire which leaves her feeling far less than beautiful.  Worse than before she STARTED the course, in fact.  The consolation that it will heal soon does not outweigh the idea that the modeling show will happen sooner than the actual healing and that she will be bandaged for it.  She has surely lost her #1 slot.  (Yes, it sounds shallow, but the author ARTFULLY captures the turmoil involved here to the point that I was actually feeling teary toward the end… quite a feat for someone to get ME to cry over a beauty show I must say.)

Meanwhile, she deals with the guilt of feeling sorry for herself because of a show when her father is undergoing surgery for his burns and this is placed atop the guilt of not knowing exactly where God is in all this modeling, beauty focus after all. Fortunately for her, the modeling instructor just happens to be a Christian and informs her that they aren’t looking for external beauty, but more for poise and “confidence”, which she quickly terms “God-confidence”.   Lily isn’t certain, though.  Modeling and being beautiful and getting the rude boy to the show so that he will be wowed and quit picking on her suddenly don’t seem as important with her dad at the hospital and all.

She talks it through with them, explains what her teacher has said and goes through with the show.  The boy is even in the audience through none of her own efforts. But while no one gasps horrified when they see a bandaged model and even applaud, her success at the modeling show does NOT magically make the boy’s teasing stop.  He’s still rude.  The girls are still unkind.  But because of her ‘God confidence’, Lily’s teeth no longer grit when she interacts with them.  She can speak to them and walk away as if she is beautiful, because in God’s sight she is.

And she has a growing club of girls with whom to share that insight.

Apparently, we don’t get to find out until book two whether she actually takes the modeling career path she is offered at the end of the book.  They leave that up to the imagination.  In the aftermath of the grease fire, we DO get to see the mom explaining to the boys that she is absolutely finished with the insulting-type teasing that they have been partaking of with regard to their sister.  She later addresses Lily’s negative attitude towards the brothers similarly explaining that they will find it easier to give her a break, if she’ll give them one and quit assuming they are going to be obnoxious.  So much packed into this girly book that this non-girly girl gives it a high review.  And not just because it will be a perfect fit for my daughters but also because I, a grown woman, enjoyed reading it.

Thanks, Nancy Rue, for creating a girl-series that I can put on my shelves with full confidence that I won’t shudder when my daughters ask me to read them.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Booksneeze’s blogging program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <[…]> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”