On the surface First Date by Kristin McGee and published by Thomas Nelson (2011) might seem just a fun “beach” read for teenage girls. It takes its plot from current reality shows with small nods to the story of Esther in the Old Testament. In First Date a hundred American teenage girls vie for the honor of being the prom date of the president’s son.

The principal of Addy Davidson’s small Christian school selects Addy to represent the school in the competition. Initially, Addy wants no part of it. She agrees after some coaxing. But her first day of shooting is worse than she thought it could be. Hoping to bring a quick end to her participation, at her first meeting with Jonathon, the president’s son, she offers to be the first one he eliminates from the competition. Rather than getting her dropped from the show, her suggestion has the opposite effect. The media takes an interest in her as does Jonathon. TV viewers find her refreshing. Embarrassed at her behavior, Addy decides to do her best, but still hopes and expects that she will soon be eliminated. As the contest continues there are a number of plot twists: unexpected friendships and real, threatening bad guys.

While the fun-loving aspect of competing in and maybe winning a beauty pageant is front and center, First Date also wrestles with some more serious problems and asks Christian girls some important questions. At times Addy likens her experiences in the competition to being Daniel in the lion’s den. Her fellow contestants are sweet and supportive of each other when the cameras are rolling, but when the cameras are turned off, many are quite catty. (I couldn’t resist the pun–sorry.)

Addy struggles with whether to tell anyone that she is a Christian and with how to act in a loving manner when some of the girls are so mean. I think these issues will resonate with many Christian teenage girls who also struggle with these questions in the high school world of their everyday lives. Addy, with the help of her mother’s diaries, learns to take some risks about who she is as a Christian and has some success. I think readers will learn from Addy to consider more deeply how they might be God’s representative in the lion’s dens of their own worlds.

Nancy Ellen Hird is a mom, a writer and a credentialed teacher. (She taught seventh grade and preschool.) Two of her published works for children are Marty’s Monster and Jessica Jacobs Did What?  Her latest work is I Get a Clue, a mystery novel for girls 10-13. For several years she was a freelance reviewer of children’s and teen’s literature for the Focus on the Family website.