The Princess Within For Teens: Discovering Your Royal Inheritance, by Serita Ann Jakes
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Bethany Books in exchange for an honest review.]
Every once in a while  I read a book that is not even remotely directed to me as a reader, and yet as is often the case, this is a worthwhile book that, with some reservations, can be of profit to many and that serves its appointed task of encouraging teen girls to think of themselves as princesses (something many girls are inclined and encouraged to do already ) in such a way that builds godly humility through recognizing their identity as children of a Heavenly Father and also therefore having a reason to act as a princess having seen themselves as worth being treated as one. It is lamentable that there are not more books that encourage young men to act as a worthy prince, as most of the books that urge men on to honor assume that the readers are already husbands and fathers and are not geared either to teens or single young adults .
That criticism aside, this book is clearly written to appeal to teenagers, particularly teenagers from rough backgrounds (and specifically African-American teens, which is not surprising given the fact that the author is the wife of a self-proclaimed “bishop” in a black church and she herself is involved in ministry). Each chapter of the main part of this story begins with a short snippet of a retelling of a Cinderella tale, where the heroine is called Ella and has some privileged stepsisters who are favored by their wealthy mother while she deals with the shame of being a poor girl who made some past mistakes with boys, something a lot of teen girls can relate to. After this comes some Gospel-influenced Christian contemporary music in a playlist that the author is implicitly recommending to teens to add as encouragement to their smart phone playlists. Many of the chapters also contain multiple choice quizzes as a way of helping teen girls understand different aspects of personality, including their approach to friends and what Disney princess they most closely resemble. Yet, at the same time, the book remains gritty and focused on issues that real teen girls face.
Make no mistake, this book does not sugarcoat the struggles that teens face in growing up godly. The book forthrightly deals with a variety of struggles, ranging from self-esteem issues, concerns about physical appearance, mental health issues like anxiety and depression and self-harm and suicide attempts, abusive boyfriends and parents, bullying, sexting, pressures to engage in fornication, the dangerous attraction towards older men, drug and alcohol abuse, the threat of rape and violence and car accidents, difficulties in dealing with parents and siblings, and other related issues. The author shares her own dramatic life, which include a homicidal boyfriend and a college life spent trying to fit in as a poor girl from a coal mining town who acquired some baggage. Although this book is geared towards teen girls, many men have had to deal with many of the issues discussed in this book as well. The advice is sprinkled with well-told biblical stories as well that strike a compassionate and encouraging tone, as well as some introductory words by one of the author’s daughters and many notes throughout from teen girls who tell their own stories, some of them commonplace and some of them harrowing. After the main narrative of the book, there is a call for readers to devote themselves to Christ, and some resources for dealing with serious matters like abuse, eating disorders, and mental health issues.
To say that this book is very good, though, is not to say that it is perfect. There are some cases where this author appears to pander to her audience by attempting to sound ‘real’ and gangsta (the author’s word) rather than sound like the grandmother she is. More substantially, the book emphasizes godly conduct in some areas, but overall appears to see salvation and sanctification as a one-time event that eliminates the ‘old man’ and does not take into account the process of sanctification and justification that can at times be very difficult for believers (see, for example, Paul’s lament in Romans 7). Readers who demand too much instantaneous moral change may doubt their salvation in the light of difficult and continuing struggles. Given that the author does not shy away from discussing many painfully difficult struggles that contemporary teen girls have to deal with, this omission of dealing with the lasting nature of some of those struggles (PTSD and additions and mental illness spring readily to mind) is somewhat curious. These objections aside, though, this is a book that provides its readers with an encouraging and biblical perspective of life as a princess that ought to encourage forgiveness, repentance, and behaving in a manner befitting of the daughter of a King. The likely appreciative young readers of this book deserve both encouragement in developing skills at communication with others and setting appropriate boundaries as well as moral instruction from someone whose life has been a challenge and who has succeeded in raising a godly family and overcoming a difficult beginning. There are a lot of poor young women with challenging pasts who deserve the encouragement that they can be princesses and find their own handsome and honorable prince, and this book is a definite help in that noble goal.
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