- Author: Jill Williamson
- Publisher: Tyndale—Focus on the Family
- Series: Riverbend Friends (Book 3)
- Synopsis: Fifteen year-old Isabella “Izzy” Valadéz is elated when her popular crush, Zac, starts paying attention to her. Izzy is thrilled with Zac’s attention, but her friends are skeptical, especially when Izzy starts changing herself to maintain Zac’s interest.
- Recommendation: Recommended for older teens/ Reader’s Discretion; See Content Disclosure
I received a complimentary e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, courtesy of Netgalley and Tyndale House.
What Drew Me to this Book
I was intrigued to see a new Christian book series for teen girls, but waited awhile to request the book because I saw it was part of a series. However, intrigue won out and I jumped into the series at book three. It helped that books one and two were from different perspectives, and written by another author.
It also really helped that the books were published by Focus on the Family. Focus published some of the very first teen Christian books— the Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn. The Lord has spoken to me numerous times through the Christy books, so I was excited to see a new series from the publisher.
I definitely had Christy Miller in mind when reading The Me You See. However, this book felt a lot more like a Melody Carlson novel than a Robin Jones Gunn book (In fact, it bore striking similarities to the Carlson novel Never Been Kissed, as well as a book in her Carter House Girls series).
Gunn and Carlson are two of my favorite authors and both write books for teens and adult women. However, their books differ stylistically in terms of content. While Gunn’s books engage with cultural issues from a more peripheral perspective, overflowing with sweetness and innocence, Carlson’s books tackle tough subject-matter head-on, often through the lens of the main character. Gunn’s characters are written to be role models. Carlson’s characters seem to be written to be relatable.
Williamson, like Carlson, engages directly with intense issues and pressures that today’s teens are facing. Likewise, Izzy a relatable character, but not a complete role model.
Izzy is a third-generation Mexican American, and the book is lightly seasoned with Spanish words and phrases. From what I can see, this is not an #OwnVoices book. However, I could definitely be mistaken. I don’t think most people would guess that I’m Mexican based on my name and photo. I would definitely like to see more #OwnVoices in the Christian fiction genre, but I feel that Williamson created a believable character and family.
The book also includes an autistic character, Sebastian “Bash” Valadéz. Bash maintains a strict schedule and calls everyone, including his parents, by their first and last names. Bash delivers the first line of the book and is one of the most precious characters I have ever read. As someone who is also on the Autistic Spectrum, I really enjoyed Williamson’s portrayal of Bash. He is shown to be competent and extremely lovable, as well as different.
Izzy and her three best friends, Tessa, Amelia and Shay, are all regular church attendees, while Zac visits church only sporadically. Throughout much of the plot, church attendance seemed to be a subtle gauge of a person’s relationship with God, and I’m not comfortable with that equation.
However, toward the end of the book, there were several pages that focused on truth about God and Izzy’s identity in Him. Even so, I would have liked to see more interaction with God, rather than simply talking about Him.
The book deals with some heavy content, but I do think that it addresses some important issues for today’s teens. As much as I don’t want it to be, I think this book can provide helpful insight and discernment. Plus, I still think it’s a better choice than most of the books out there.
At the same time, because of the nature content, I wouldn’t want this book to introduce innocent readers to things they aren’t familiar with. It’s a hard call, so my recommendation is Reader’s Discretion.
- Izzy makes some questionable choices, but learns from her mistakes. She’s relatable but not always the best role model.
- Kissing Scenes:
- There are quite a few kissing scenes, but overall they aren’t too graphic
- Social Media:
- Izzy is constantly using social media, and there’s no real discussion of the effects of her doing so
Minor Spoiler for the sake of Disclosure:
Although introduced fairly late in the story, sexting plays a significant role in the plotline. Williamson handles the topic very tastefully, with no graphic details, and Izzy refuses to send inappropriate photographs.