Book Review: Girls Gone Mild by Wendy Shailt

18 04 2008


As Wendy Shalit explores in her newest book, Girls Gone Mild, we’re now living in a new paradigm where — unlike pervious generations with bad boys like James Dean or the Fonz — “badness” isn’t regarded as “daring” or “cool” or “sexy”; it’s become the new social norm, which Shalit explains has created a new kind of repression among girls.

In the same way young women of pervious eras were expected to be good, pure and well-mannered.  Today’s girls are faced with the social pressures and expectations to be wild, brought on by the media, skimpy teen clothing, sexualized toys like Bratz, boyfriends, cliques, and sometimes even their own parents.

In this much needed book, Shalit takes on the challenge of making a case for the “good girl.”  To help — as her subtitle says — Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find It’s Not Bad to be Good.

Wendy Shalit’s goal, she says “is not to attack those who want to be ‘wild,’ but rather to expand the range of options for young people, who I believe are suffering because of the limited choices available to them.” In other words, instead of trying to ban “wildness,” she wants purity and innocence to be acknowledged for what they are – valid, practical options, even or especially in our sex-saturated culture.

I was originally under the impression Girls Gone Mild was written to middle school and high school age girls, but although there are short exercises and pop quizzes at the end of each chapter that have a vague teen magazine flare to them, Shalit talks more about girls then to them, and it’s written in more of an upbeat report-style – very well researched and insightful, but not exactly the sort of thing I could see most middle school or high school girls wading through just for fun.  It’s also rather long.

In the first couple of chapters, when Shalit emphasizes how sex-saturated our culture has become, some of the examples (bad examples, but they’re still in there) wouldn’t be appropriate for a lot of preteen or early high school girls. Because of this, even though Shalit doesn’t go into much detail, I wouldn’t feel comfortable giving Girls Gone Mild a recommendation to girls (maybe a select few, but not a general recommendation). 

Although, it isn’t the book I’d originally thought it would be, I do think Girls Gone Mild is a great, eye-opening resource for parents, teachers, youth workers and anyone else hoping to help girls and young women successfully navigate their way through their school years and beyond.  And I hope, for the sake of the girls in their lives, they’ll take advantage of it.

I could also see Girls Gone Mild being a good resource for girls planning or considering living on campus while attending college, because it could provide them with a chance to think through some of the potential problems college students can encounter (co-ed bathrooms, the hookup culture, roommates wanting to hookup in your room, etc.) and how they could handle some of the things they won’t hear about on their college tour.

Wendy Shalit is an Orthodox Jew, but this book isn’t written to those who are religious or conservative in their morals — it’s written to the general population, which I believe is its best feature because in questioning our culture’s view on sexuality, modesty and being good, Shailt has opened the door for further discussion sparked by the question — “Is it so bad to be good?” 

Recommended Age: 17+

Book Review: The Purity Principle by Randy Alcorn

4 03 2008

Copyright 2008 Kelsey Hough.  All Rights Reserved.

When it comes to Christian purity books, there seem to be two categories: The impure “purity” books, and the fluffy purity books.

Since the first group believes “knowledge is power,” the aim is to inform the reader in great detail about every kind of impurity on the market. Rather than being equipped to deal with living in our sex-saturated culture, though, the reader only comes away with step-by-step instructions of what not to do. It’s about as affective as an anti-drug campaign that teaches kids how to make homemade narcotics.

On the other side of the purity books scale, the goal is to show how romantic purity can be, rather than how painful, devastating and destructive impurity always is. They promise their readers a “happily ever after” if they’ll just follow God’s plan for their love life and relationships. Purity then, sadly, becomes a means to an end – a happy marriage and romantic bliss – rather than the pursuit of God Himself … a life of holiness.

To my surprise and delight, Randy Alcorn’s book The Purity Principle: God’s Safeguards for Life’s Dangerous Trails falls into neither of these two common categories.

The Purity Principle is a small book, but it packs a punch. Chock full of Bible verses, real-life examples, and sound biblical advice, it answers questions like, “What exactly is purity?” and “Why does it even matter?” This is a wonderful book for older teens and adults of any age, and any relational status, who would like to gain a better understanding of what biblical purity is, and why it’s important.

Much like the book of Proverbs, instead of giving you the lowdown on what not to do, or painting an overly romanticized, fluffy picture of purity, Randy Alcorn removes the glimmer of sexual immorality by sharing the real-life stories of men and women who fell into sin by slowly choosing to walk down the wrong road – one small, fatal step at a time.

The Purity Principle shows how the fear of God and the consequences of disobeying His holy law should be what “drives the sense into us” rather than out. And how this fear of God should be what makes us alert, diligent, watchful and drastic when it comes to protecting our own purity and making sure we don’t allow even a hint of sexual immorality into our own lives.

Because The Purity Principle doesn’t take a let-me-tell-you-what-not-to-do approach to purity, and it’s biblically solid, it could be a helpful book for someone who’s currently struggling with issues of morality, while still being an excellent choice for someone who wants to learn how to safeguard their life so they don’t find themselves needing to do an about-face later.

Recommended Age: 16+ Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.

Book Review: Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot

6 11 2007


Copyright 2007 Kelsey Hough.  All rights reserved.

Because there are so many relational/purity books in print, I think it’s easy for Christian singles desiring a Biblical world view regarding romance and purity to feel at a loss of where to even start reading.  Most of us don’t have the time, money, or desire to wade through a stack or relational/purity books looking for a few diamonds in the rough.

So where do you start if you’d like a thoughtful introduction to romantic relationships?  I believe Elisabeth Elliot’s Passion and Purity: Learning to Bring Your Love Life Under Christ’s Control is an excellent starting point for both singles and dating/courting couples desiring to, as the subtitle says, bring their love lives under Christ’s control.

In Passion and Purity, Elisabeth Elliot honestly and openly shares with the reader the story and lessons learned from her five-year courtship with Jim Elliot while addressing topics such as dealing with loneliness and impatience, how we’re to view singleness, putting God’s desires ahead of your own, men and women’s relational roles, the importance of purity, and much more.

I appreciate the fact that although Elisabeth Elliot talks candidly about purity and relationships, the way she addresses these topics is never inappropriate, so a preteen could read Passion and Purity without losing a piece of their purity and innocence in the process, and a single adult could read it without feeling talked down to.

Unlike some relational/purity books, Passion and Purity never makes the mistake of over-spiritualizing romance and relationships, but Elisabeth Elliot also makes it evident through sharing personal stories and journal entries she does understand from personal experience the joys and pains of singleness.

I originally read Passion and Purity in early high school.  It was one of the first books I read on the subject of purity and relationships, and I found it challenging, thought-provoking and encouraging.  I’ve since reread it several times, and in each new stage of life, I’ve found it just as applicable.

Passion and Purity has remainded my personal favorite relational/purity book on the market, and one I regularly recommend to other Christian singles.  If you haven’t read it, I wholeheartedly recommend you give it a whirl.

Recommended Age: 13+ Drop me a note if you’d like reprint permission.