Book Review: Swept Away by Nicole O’Dell

Kids want to read books that are realistic instead of cheesy, but a lot of parents want to be sure their kids read books that are decent and don’t push them into “too old” things too soon. One author who’s trying to make both groups (parents and kids) happy is Nicole O’Dell. The books in her Scenarios for Girls series offer something I’ve not seen in other Christian YA novels – the chance for readers to truly see the story from both sides of the spectrum.

The books tackle lots of issues facing girls today – cheating, purity, taking dares, dealing with parents or teachers, and more. Each story has you  “along for the ride” with the main character until she reaches the point of needing to make an important, life-changing decision. The main story stops, and readers are asked to decide how they would handle the situation in the exact same circumstances. Then you continue the story, depending on how you answer. Better yet, you can read both endings to see how things might play out in the real world for both options. It’s a great way to help girls think through situations and the potential outcomes before they find themselves in the same predicament. Once a girl finishes reading the book, she has the chance to make a written commitment to implement the lessons she’s learned from the story. A parent or other trusted adult can witness her commitment and help her with accountability.

The stories I read were from Swept Away, which includes two of the Scenarios books – High Stakes and Essence of Lilly. I haven’t read others in the series, but love the whole concept. The stories themselves are interesting and right on target for today’s girls. Letting them become a part of how the story ends will hopefully help girls remember the story and its message, long after the book goes back on the shelf. I applaud O’Dell for writing for these girls in such a real way, and I’ll be passing Swept Away onto some of the girls at church. With Christmas shopping time right around the corner, you might want to look for Swept Away or the other Scenarios for Girls books for a special middle or high school girl in your life.

Ages and reading levels: Swept Away and the other Scenarios for Girls books are marketed as young adult fiction, which means they’re targeting kids in the 13-17 age range (or so). The characters in the books I read are in high school. Some of the topics might be a little more geared toward older readers, but the writing itself is fine for middle school girls and I would be fine letting a middle schooler read Swept Away. It might even be OK for some fifth graders, but I wouldn’t recommend it for girls younger than that because some of the situations might be too old for them.

For more info on Nicole O’Dell and her books and Teen Talk radio program, visit her online.

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