2021 Rooted Book Awards: Best New Books For Teenagers

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If you’re read around the Rooted blog much at all, you know by now that we love to get great books into the hands of kids. 2021 brought some outstanding new entries to our recommended reading for teenagers. All of these books are winners for the teens in your life, and as adults we learned some things perusing these pages too. Enjoy!

Honorable Mentions 

Brave: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Beating Worry and Anxiety by Sissy Goff (Baker Publishing Group)

From her vantage point as a licensed counselor who has worked with teenage girls for almost 30 years, Sissy Goff writes this empowering resource for teenage girls who struggle with worry or anxiety. Her new book is highly interactive. With ample space to write and draw, reading the book feels like having a back-and-forth conversation with Sissy Goff, accompanied by her dog Lucy, in her office. Goff expresses that she wants her book to be a safe place for the girls who read it. 

“A place for you to learn more about not only what’s going on inside of you, but who you are. A place for you to write about what you’re feeling and learning. A place for you to discover more of who God has made you to be and the immense strength and courage he has placed inside you.”

The approach Goff offers teen girls on how to beat anxiety and worry is grounded in the gospel and in evidence-based psychological principles. Goff defines anxiety as “an overestimation of the problem and an underestimation of yourself.” Rather than reassuring girls that they are enough on their own or just urging girls to believe in themselves more, Goff provides truth and encouragement from God’s Word. She encourages girls to remember who they are in Christ and shows them how to use the truth of who God says they are to fight the lies that so often lead to stress, anxiety, and worry.  

Goff also explains the science behind how the brain and body function normally and how they function when we are anxious. She gives teen girls information in a way that is understandable and directly applicable. The book includes research about brain chemistry, the effect of social media and technology on mental health, mental health disorders, and cognitive behavioral therapy. 

Almost every single teen girl feels pressure or can feel stressed out sometimes. This book can speak to all teen girls, whatever their struggle with worry looks like. Particularly if you know a girl between the ages of thirteen and sixteen and her worry or anxiety influences her day-to-day life, reading this guide could be a powerful first step towards helping her beat anxiety and worry. 

Surviving Religion 101: Letters to a Christian Student on Keeping the Faith in College by Michael J Kruger (Crossway) (review on Rooted)

Freshman year is a time full of questions. Questions like, Who am I?, What do I believe?, Who are my friends?, and How long until I see my parents again? As a professor, Michael J. Kruger is well-aware of the questions college students ask as they start university. In this book, Kruger tackles 15 of these difficult questions. 

He gives college students the tools they need to respond to common objections to the Bible and the Christian faith. When Kruger began college, he did not feel equipped intellectually to respond to the many criticisms of Christianity his professors threw at him. His goal is to equip students with an intellectual foundation that will help them as they learn about these new ideas and criticisms. As a leading New Testament scholar, Kruger is able to provide reliable and relevant biblical research that addresses these prevalent issues, such as the problem of evil, how science and religion interact, the reliability of the Bible, and sexuality. 

The book is a series of letters Kruger writes to his college-aged daughter. The letters are not only full of helpful research but also tenderness, encouragement, and practical advice. He provides information that will help college students respond to these questions and he also gives encouragement for students to remain firm in their faith and treat those who disagree with kindness. 

“Stand your ground. And always do so with kindness. It’s the combination of these two things that is so powerful… You are called to do both–stand your ground on the uniqueness of Christ and show kindness. The two are not mutually exclusive but belong together.” 

This book is an excellent resource for college students who are trying to sort through all the new  opposing ideas they hear, or for high school seniors who want to be equipped intellectually to tackle these ideas when they face them in the years to come. 

And the winner is….

Best New Book for Teenagers

10 Questions Every Teen Should Ask (and Answer) about Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin (Crossway). (Review on Rooted; companion book for adults Confronting Christianity reviewed here.)

One of the toughest tensions of the Christian life is that between grace and truth. How do we hold fast to God’s truth, given to us through his Word, while still engaging the world around us with grace, love, and compassion? 

Rebecca McLaughlin strikes an impeccable balance in this tension in her new book written specifically for teens. McLaughlin’s earlier book Confronting Christianity: 12 Hard Questions for the World’s Largest Religion is geared toward adults. After publishing the first book she saw the urgent need for a similar resource for teenagers. In 10 Questions, she answers ten critical questions that she argues teens should ask (and be able to answer!) about Christianity. 

McLaughlin urges teenaged Christians to ask questions in this book. She doesn’t just give answers but shows students how to ask questions and how to think critically. She urges students to look past simple answers, equipping teenagers with the tools necessary to ask deeper questions, to listen, and to figure out what they believe and why.

“Rather than protecting my kids from divergent ideas, or urging them to affirm all beliefs equally, I want to equip them to have real conversations with real people who really think differently from them–and from me. I want them to learn how to listen well and question what they hear. If what I believe is true, it will stand up to scrutiny.” 

McLaughlin provides not only scriptures and ideas from church history that apply to these ten challenging questions, but she also provides outside research and explanations based on critical thinking and logical reasoning. Her book is a valuable resource for a teen who isn’t sure yet if they can trust the Bible and the God of the Bible, as well as teenagers who are familiar with the Bible and want to engage with God and his Word on a deeper level. 

Many thanks to 2021 student series editor Lauren Center for for her extensive work in this category of our book awards. Our team of readers (minus Lauren, who teaches high school Bible) enjoyed a conversation about the winners on the Rooted Youth Ministry podcast- check it out

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