Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Girl Named Mister
by Nikki Grimes

Author Website:

Available in hardback, paperback and Kindle formats. Zondervan, originally published only in hardback in 2010. The paperback will be released August 2011; ISBN: 0310723132; 220 pages.

Formatted like a poetic diary, this book follows two Marys in very different times, but with one very similar situation.

Mary Rudine, nicknamed Mister, is a sophomore in high school hoping to earn a volleyball scholarship to college. She's active in her church choir and youth group; she can't remember a time without church! Then Trey comes into the picture. His smooth words and long lashes soon make her question what she knows is right. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she inches toward one big mistake that leaves her with lasting consequences.

It is about that time that her mother gives her a book of poetry. Feeling abandoned and alone, Mister gets lost in the story of another Mary.

This Mary has done everything according to Jewish law and eagerly awaits her coming wedding to Joseph, but an angel's visit leaves her confused and struggling with the consequences of the angel's prophecy. She, a virgin, will give birth?

Together both Marys discover the depth of God's love while facing the mysteries of His plans.
I've never before read a novel written entirely in poetry.

Thanks to her children's picture books, I'm familiar with Nikki Grimes and her great talent for poetry. When I first opened this book, though, I didn't know what to think. I was sure the poetic format would drive me crazy in a novel. But it didn't! Once I got started, I couldn't put it down.

I really like the parallel between Mary (Jesus' mother) and Mister. The link there was quite beautiful. A great emphasis is on the character of God and the abundance of His love and grace.

Because it is written in first person, this book feels very intimate, like as a reader you've jumped into Mister's skin. The author did a tremendous job of character development, which is crucial when dealing with a hot topic like teen pregnancy. Raw and realistic, the book shows how easily people can be drawn away from their convictions. The book shows the true struggle that comes with teen pregnancy, the difficulty in making life-altering decisions at such a young age.

There are two instances of cursing. While I agree these words add grit and authenticity to the characters, I would have preferred their absence, especially since this book is targeted for young teens. Also, some parts of the text are extremely sensual in nature. As an adult, I didn't have a problem with them, but I did question at what age I would allow my daughter to read this. Portions may be too explicit for immature readers.

Final Thoughts: I thought this was a tremendous book. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone and I would expect parents to take careful note of the content and evaluate their child's readiness before allowing them to read it. But this title definitely serves as a get-lost-in-the-characters book.

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