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Book Review

This slice-of-life novel by Nancy Rue is the first in the "Mean Girl Makeover" series published by Tommy Nelson, a registered trademark of Thomas Nelson.

So Not Okay is written for kids ages 8 to 12. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements

Conclusion

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Tori is a smart sixth-grader who has always known where she fit in with best friends Ophelia and Winnie. The girls have done their best to stay off the radar of Alpha Wolf Kylie and her Pack of followers. But when Kylie begins to target Tori and friends with cruel notes and comments, Ophelia and Winnie live in constant fear of what the Pack may do to them.

Ophelia and Winnie are beside themselves when Tori feels sorry for a greasy, socially awkward new girl named Ginger and invites her to join their science project group. The Pack loathes Ginger, so they act even meaner to Tori and her friends. The science project team also includes Mitch, a large, tough girl, who has beat people up for calling her brother with special needs a retard. For their science project, Tori's group must research an area of the mind or body. In light of their own personal struggles, they decide to study what makes people mean.

All is not well in the study group. Ophelia is rude to Ginger, convinced the new girl's presence in the group will cause the Pack to come down hard on the rest of them. Winnie, who is going through some difficult problems at home, does a lot of whining and crying as she longs for something calm and stable in her life. Tori is annoyed by Ginger's loud laughter and barely passable hygiene, but she can't stand the way the Pack treats Ginger.

Kylie and her group not only write Ginger mean notes and leave moldy food in her locker, they also prevent her from using the bathroom or getting into her locker between classes. Ginger is so afraid of running into them that she eats lunch in the bathroom.

When the study group meets at Tori's house to flesh out their topic, they receive a surprise visit from Dad's new research assistant. Lydia is a spirited, intelligent woman who happens to have dwarfism. Once the girls get past their initial surprise at her appearance, they discover she has a wealth of information on their topic, and she's more than willing to share her insights. Besides that, she knows what it feels like to be bullied. She gives the girls many practical methods for handling the Pack on a day-to-day basis. She later tells Tori all of these techniques come from the Bible.

Life improves for Tori in some ways. She, Mitch, Winnie and Ginger develop a sense of camaraderie and teamwork as they collectively protect Ginger from the Pack. But Tori's friendship with Ophelia suffers because Ophelia is too afraid and selfish to stand up for anyone. Ophelia essentially takes herself out of the study group to distance herself from Ginger. She's even seen eating lunch with the Pack.

Tori's beloved grandmother has an aneurysm, and her mother is too busy with work to listen to Tori's bullying problems. Dad finds himself in a bullying situation, where the producers for his documentary threaten the project if he takes it in a certain direction. Lydia has to go in for an urgent spinal surgery resulting from her dwarfism.

Kylie and her Pack continually sabotage Tori's team's science project, and none of the teachers seem to have any clue about the Pack's bullying activities. Tori opens up to one teacher about how the Pack is hurting their science project, but the teachers don't address the problem until after the Pack traps Tori in a locker. They call the girls' parents. Ophelia finally stands up for her study group, including Ginger, and tells the teachers what's been happening. Pack members are suspended. The principal likes the code that Tori's group uses. Their code respects the dignity of every human being. She asks all sixth-graders to sign it.

Lydia's surgery is successful, Grandma gets better and, inspired by Tori's bravery, Dad decides to stand up for his rights on the film project. Tori thanks Lydia for teaching her how to pray and stand up for herself.

Christian Beliefs

Tori admits to being so restless in church that she often wishes someone would doze off and fall off the pew just to liven things up. She says her parents say a blessing at the table, and Mom tells friends she'll pray for them. But otherwise, her parents don't talk much about God at home. The family goes to church most Sundays, and Tori is expected to show respect to God by being quiet and ladylike. Pastor Jake gives a sermon on the good Samaritan.

Lydia says she keeps being brave even when life scares her because that's what God wants her to do. Sometimes it hurts to be a little person, so she prays about those hurts. Lydia trusts God as she prepares to go in for a tricky spinal surgery. She also writes out a prayer for Tori so Tori will know how to talk to God.

Other Belief Systems

None

Authority Roles

Mom is out of the loop about Tori's struggles because she is a florist and Valentine's Day keeps her extremely busy. Dad attempts to sympathize with Tori's middle-school girl problems. When he realizes he's not the best person for the job, he enlists Lydia's help. Lydia kindly and candidly talks with Tori and her friends about bullying and how to deal with it properly. Most of Tori's teachers have no idea the Pack is bullying others.

Profanity/Violence

None

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

None

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at ThrivingFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes


This review is brought to you by Focus on the Family, a donor-based ministry. Book reviews cover the content, themes and world-views of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

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