I want to begin by first thanking NetGalley and the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for providing me with an early edition of A Girl’s Guide to the Outback. This book was my first introduction to Jessica Kate, and while I was happy to find a novel without profanity or explicit scenes, this review will be one of mixed emotions.
Summary: A Girl’s Guide to the Outback is a story about a youth pastor, Sam, who is afraid to take risks, and a start-up expert, Kimberly, who has a passion for looking at the big picture. Together, these two could not be more different and are continually going head-to-head when it comes to making decisions for the youth ministry they work with called Wildfire. However, when Sam gets a call from his sister, Jules, saying that their family’s dairy farm in Australia is in danger of foreclosing, Sam leaves his responsibilities at Wildfire to return home and help his sister.
Free from Sam, Kimberly feels like she can finally accomplish her work with no more fighting, but she soon realizes that Wildfire is nothing without Sam. Willing to do anything to get the youth pastor back, Kimberly negotiates a compromise when Sam calls asking for her help. Will flying to the country Down Under be the perfect opportunity to encourage Sam to return full-time to Wildfire, or will their conflicting personalities be too different to form an alliance?
A Girl’s Guide to the Outback takes on the classic story of enemies to lovers; however, while this novel is an endearing love story where loyalty runs high and Australian slang is plenty, many things were lacking in this novel.
When writing a Contemporary Christian book with a protagonist as a youth pastor, you’d think God would be a lead in the storyline and that the Bible and prayer would play a role in the character’s decision making; but, this was not the case in this narrative. I was more than half-way through the book when one of the characters talked about God’s guidance for the first time! There was maybe one Bible verse reference, and the characters were so wrapped up in their feelings and own fleshy desires that there was no space for God to move!
I was also really disappointed at how obsessed the characters were about kissing one another; I could have understood it if this were a secular novel, but it was not. While the protagonists were passionate about one another, when it came to their relationship with God, it was on the surface and only seemed to become important when life was throwing fireballs at them. As I read, I became upset at how little Kimberly, Sam, and Jules seemed to trust in God and how much they relied on their feelings. It makes me sad to think that this is how many Christians are living their lives and that teens/young adults will read this book and get affirmation that it’s okay to be obsessed with the physical side of relationships and only talk to God when we need His help and guidance.
I hope that by writing this review, people will not see it as hateful or spiteful. Instead, I pray that it will open people’s eyes and get writers to start creating books where God is a central character and not just a small pin on a storyboard. A Girl’s Guide to the Outback had lots of potential with essential life lessons sewn within the storyline, but for me, it was missing too much for me to give a rating above three stars.