Just a Girl by Jackie French

Book reviews are subjective. I tend to rate books not according to how “perfect” they are, seem to be, or are said to be in general but rather to how perfect they are to me.

Just a Girl by Jackie French

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

(Click the title to find the book description/blurb.)

Instead of working as a fourteen-year-old shepherdess (and huntress), Judith would likely be married by now if the men in her village hadn’t gone off to fight the Romans. But an attack on her village leaves Judith with the sole responsibility of caring for her sister and great-grandmother. Perhaps while they’re in hiding, Judith’s great-grandmother will finally make a confession regarding a young woman she once knew—Maryiam of Nazareth—in Just a Girl by author Jackie French.

So. Despite the tagline on this novel’s cover and the way the publisher’s blurb leads off, this is not a story centered on Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is Judith’s story, with a key Maryiam-related theme woven in, mostly toward the end.

Also, despite the cute, rather carefree splash of the cover design, and the fact that it’s technically a children’s book (for ages ten and up), this isn’t a cutesy and carefree or childish tale. It’s a wartime story of a teenaged heroine with unpretentious strength, resilience, know-how, and more she needs to learn. A story of life and death, danger and survival. It’s tragic and rather gritty in places, with poignant nuggets that either sting or shine. Or both.

Now, there’s a lot of description about the characters’ normal household/hideout tasks. Not all of those slower parts had me riveted the whole time, but they do add to the novel’s historical value. And I appreciate the resolute but open conclusion, though it ended just a beat or two too early for me, somehow.

Nevertheless, children, young adults, and adults alike can get something worthwhile out of this inspiring historical novel. And don’t skip the Author’s Note in the back.

Note to my blog readers: this middle grade/YA book contains some non-graphic innuendo in relation to marriage. Also, while religious themes are integral to the story, the novel should not be mistaken for Christian Fiction.


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