74. Krista McGee, First Date
I was excited to read this book, about a girl (Addy) from a private Christian school who gets chosen to create in a reality competition to be the prom date for the First Son. I've enjoyed some similar stories in the past (The Selection, Second Chances) and hoped this would have a similar mix of hijinks and romance. I was also intrigued by the Christian element, as I don't see many books successfully treat religious faith in a non-preachy manner.
I wasn't very far into the book when I realized it was actually a retelling of the biblical Esther story, which made me even more hopeful. (As a child, Esther was by far my favorite book of the Bible--I reread it many times). This had a lot of promise.
Unfortunately, it didn't quite hold up to that promise. While Addy had some interesting complexes, including her reluctance to own her faith and her guilt over that reluctance, the whole Christian issue felt a little forced. Maybe my community is too sheltered, but even in graduate school I never felt like society as a whole looked down on Christians; people might not believe, but so many people in America do claim to be Christian (if not active church-goers) that the premise that Addy might be persecuted if she admits to her belief seemed a little much to me. I also felt like the plot twist that the author introduced to parallel Biblical threat to Esther's Jewish community was sort of unlikely.
A bigger issue for me was the sense that many of the girls (aside from Addy and her roommate Kara) were shallow and stereotypical. I realize you can't go into detail about *all* of the characters, but most of her contestants were just mean girls, without much to differentiate them outside of their appearance. And Addy herself, while she faced challenges, never seemed to be in real danger of losing anything important to her (something that I think is part of most good stories).
Despite all this, the story is clean and light and I can imagine that many readers enjoy it.