About the Book:
A 14-year-old girl who wants her first kiss more than anything gets diagnosed with Celiac disease, prompting important considerations about her body and her Catholic faith. Themes include: faith, choices, and sex & relationships.
I won this book on the Holloway Family North blog. It is a Catholic YA novel aimed at the middle school crowd. I have mixed feelings about it.
The book starts with Gloria Jean and her friends (whose parents consider them too young to date) arranging a group party with boys at the movies. Of course the kids pair up--but due to some intestinal distress, Gloria Jean never gets kissed by her "date". She does lie and tell her parents that the girls all sat together.
We continue to follow Gloria Jean and her friends through the first semester of the school year. One new thing this year is that PE includes sex ed once a week--sex ed that is focused on consent and staying safe, not sex ed focused on chastity. Gloria Jean is also getting sex ed in her confirmation classes, where they are taught the Catholic view of sexuality. I thought the contrast between the classes was interesting and instructive.
Another thing Gloria Jean is dealing with is celiac disease. She'd been suffering from increasing intestinal distress and other ailments for over a year and was finally diagnosed with celiac disease and put on a gluten-free diet. Of course she's not happy about it, though she does feel better. She has to learn to deal with a new diet, which includes not taking the host at Mass--and changing Mass times to one where the Cup could be offered (her family attended the Extraordinary Form Mass).
One thing that had me annoyed for much of the book is the fact that Gloria Jean's best friend was Jewish. Her best friend was the one who was encouraging her in her quest to get kissed and it seemed for much of the book like the author was setting up a contrast between how a good Catholic should behave and how the world (as exemplified by Gloria's friend Eden) expects us to behave. It annoys me to no end when a Christian novel uses a Catholic in such a situation and for most of the book I saw no reason Eden should have been cast as Jewish rather than as "we go to different churches every Christmas". At the end of the book, the fact the Eden is Jewish does become important, so I'll give Britt Leigh a pass on that one.
This is clearly a book designed to teach religion and a lot of it. During the course of this 195 page book we learn that Gloria Jean attends a Latin Mass in the Extraordinary Form, that the people dress up for that Mass, and her mom even bought her an expensive veil to wear. We listen to the sex ed talks at Confirmation class, and go with Gloria Jean to Adoration. Gloria Jean ends up doing a project on bread and learns about the use of bread in the Bible. Gloria Jean goes to confession too. At times I think the story got bogged down because there was too much effort to teach religion.
I'd like to thank Britt Leigh and the Daughters of St. Paul (her publishers) for providing a complimentary copy of the book. Grade: B-