Have a Little Faith in Me
by Sonia Hartl
Published September 3, 2019
Source: I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
When CeCe’s born-again ex-boyfriend dumps her after they have sex, she follows him to Jesus camp in order to win him back. Problem: She knows nothing about Jesus. But her best friend Paul does. He accompanies CeCe to camp, and the plan—God’s or CeCe’s—goes immediately awry when her ex shows up with a new girlfriend, a True Believer at that.
Scrambling to save face, CeCe ropes Paul into faking a relationship. But as deceptions stack up, she questions whether her ex is really the nice guy he seemed. And what about her strange new feelings for Paul—is this love, lust, or an illusion born of heartbreak? To figure it out, she’ll have to confront the reasons she chased her ex to camp in the first place, including the truth about the night she lost her virginity. [goodreads]
Several aspects of this story rang true to my own experience growing up as a ‘youth group girl’ who later stepped away from the church (for various reasons). In this story, CeCe experiences a lot of the shaming that goes on in modern churches regarding women’s bodies and sexuality.
I wish I had read this book as a teen, and am so glad that teens today will have the opportunity to do so. I really appreciated the honest and realistic explorations of the church’s expectations of women, the ways those expectations are often sexist double-standards, and the guilt/shame that youth group girls tend to feel about their bodies.
HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME also does a great job of talking about consent in a natural, conversational way. The characters learn, on the page, that there’s a difference between saying yes and meaning it, between saying yes once and continually saying yes, and that when you say yes under pressure it’s not truly a yes.
So many of the scenes brought me straight back to my youth group days, but there were often times that I felt things were taken too far. For example, CeCe tries to wear a bikini to the lake for an afternoon of swimming, but is stopped by a camp leader who tells her “modest is hottest” (totally a thing I used to say. YIKES.) and forced her to cover up in an embarrassing, gross outfit from the lost and found.
CeCe makes a comment about the double-standard that guys are able to go shirtless while girls have to wear modest one-pieces or wear t-shirts over their swimsuits. I enjoyed that she challenged this policy on the page, but didn’t like that the church leaders seemed so vicious and intent on punishing CeCe for wanting to wear a bathing suit she felt confident and comfortable in.
This was basically my biggest/only problem with the book, and what kept it from being a 5-star read for me. Throughout the story, it seemed like the pastors/leaders didn’t care about any of the kids. They had a very legalistic view of Christianity and represented it in a very poor light. In my experience, church camp is a very welcoming and loving place. Although there are boundaries and rules, they are enforced with explanation and empathy, not with punishment and embarrassment. Nothing about the way church camp was portrayed in this story would make me ever want to attend church, that’s for sure.
In addition to the important topics covered in HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME, the characters were extremely well-written and developed, with growth and character arcs that worked really well. The main character, CeCe, was laugh-out-loud funny and had some hilarious one-liners. I found myself actually laughing several times while reading and it added so much to the story. Not enough YA books feature funny characters!
I highly recommend this book to any teen, church-going or not, because of the fantastic explanations about what consent truly means and the candid conversations about the basics of sex. It felt like reading a Judy Blume book for today’s generation.
HAVE A LITTLE FAITH IN ME is out now!
Click here to order your copy.