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Book Review: Smoke Screen (Faithgirlz!/Boarding School Mysteries #3) by Kristi Holl

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There’s never a dull moment for Jerri McKane at the Landmark Boarding School. Just as anticipations are high for the upcoming Hawaiian dance, the biology lab is deliberately set on fire. Jerri’s best friend and lab partner is hurt and is sent to the hospital. But who and why would someone set the biology lab on fire? When another fire is set, Jerri’s new friend Tim, who’s mentally impaired, is blamed.

Determined to find out who the firebug is before he or she sets another fire, Jerri sets out to solve the crime before someone else is hurt. But is Jerri too late?

Amateur sleuth and sixth grader Jerri McKane deals with prejudice of a different kind in Smoke Screen. In another book in the Boarding School Mysteries Series, Jerri encounters girls at the boarding school who dislike her roommate because of her nationality, and here a mentally impaired boy is ridiculed and made fun of because he is different. Jerri desperately wants to demonstrate the love of God to her classmates by being nice to Tim, but when he develops romantic feelings for her will the peer pressure be too much?

Jerri experiences inner turmoil by not always having the nicest thoughts about Tim. However, she always talks to God about it, maintaining an open and real relationship with him. I thought this was an encouragement and an example to young believers on how to live out their faith. Readers will see her battle her conscience but instead of fearing imperfection and running from God feeling ashamed, she feels free to talk to him. I noticed she had no problems talking things over with God in the same casual way she did with her mom.

Kristi Holl touches on subjects important to middle school-aged children, driving home such thought-provoking issues as peer pressure, self-image, friendships and acceptance. Without being overly preachy, middle schoolers will come away from Smoke Screen not only satisfied after solving a hard-to-figure out mystery, but will also be reminded that they can trust God in their lives.

There is an excerpt in the back of the book for another Boarding School Mystery titled Pick Your Poison that has piqued my interest. I confess: I’m an adult who really enjoys reading this series and tries to solve the mystery before Jerri. I succeeded only one time in four books in naming the culprit before Jerri. Jerri is good!

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