Sunday, August 12, 2012

Girl on a Mission

Teens interested in going on a church mission trip may enjoy reading Girl on a Mission by Cindy Ellis. In the story, thirteen-year-old Emery heads to Cawley, West Virginia on a summer mission trip with Christian Teens Service Corps. Once there, her local group joins a number of other teens. They are divided into smaller working teams that offer manual labor service to needy families. Emery is placed in a group with a boy she finds both inspiring and attractive.

The story follows Emery’s group as they interact with a family (a grandfather and his granddaughter) touched by tragedy. When Emery sprains her wrist, she can no longer work on the outdoor projects. Instead, she takes the opportunity to visit with the family. She learns more about their painful past and develops a strong relationship with them. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, Emery must deal with a misunderstanding that leads to heartache and a broken friendship.

Toward the end of the mission trip, disaster strikes Emery’s adopted family once again, leaving her frantic with worry. She must grapple with tough life questions and come to understand her own faith on a whole new level. And, because of her special connection with the grandfather, she alone is in a unique position to change his life. I don’t want to give away this story’s ending… so that’s all I’ll reveal on the matter.

Through Emery’s eyes, the author zeroes in on key experiences common to many teen missions, such as the anxiety of meeting new people, the kinship developed with fellow teammates, new insights into faith, fun ice-breaker activities and games, and group dynamics.

After the story’s conclusion, the copy I had contained a bonus excerpt from a new (unrelated) book by this author called Rising Shadows. For those readers who like the first four chapters, Ellis also included a link to download the full story.

What I Like: Since my own children recently went on mission trips, the powerful impact such ventures produce on teens was fresh in my mind. To me, Ellis seemed spot on about the emotions and activities that take place during such trips. I then learned that Ellis—a teacher of twenty years—drew on her own real life youth mission trip experiences when writing the story. I guess that explains why she captured it so well! Overall, the story was somewhat predictable, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it anyway. In fact, I read it in one sitting because even though I thought I knew what would happen next, I still couldn’t wait for the next day to find out. Finally, through Emery’s thoughts and actions I felt like Ellis provided great insights on how to deal with “drama” problems a typical teen might deal with.

What I Dislike: Even though I enjoyed the main character, I felt like Emery seemed more mature than thirteen. By the way she spoke and carried herself, I kept thinking she was sixteen or seventeen. Plus I couldn’t help thinking that if she actually was older, I would have felt more comfortable about her romantic inclinations toward the aforementioned inspiring and attractive boy.

Overall Rating: Excellent

Age Appeal: None given, but I'd say ages 12 through 15, possibly 16.

Publisher Info: Kirkdale Press, 2012; ASIN:B008P4LRHI; Kindle version, 224 pgs., $7.99.

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Buy the kindle version at for $7.99.

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