Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus - Book Review

Tindell Baldwin opens her heart and shares her experience as a teenager striving for popularity in the book Popular: Boys, Booze, and Jesus.  Now in her mid-twenties, she tells her story with honesty and vulnerability, displaying her passion to reveal God’s healing grace in her life.  She wants to protect teenage girls from the mistakes that come from temporary satisfaction, and for those that have already chosen the “fun” road that leads to emotional pain, she offers  hope from her injuries inflicted on the road of brokenness.  She doesn’t glamorize boys and booze, but doesn’t cloak them in vague terms, either. She wants the reader to know that only in Jesus can we find something lasting and that He wants us to use our gifts for good instead of evil.  Tindell’s story is a little drawn-out and repetitive, but she clearly makes her point.  God’s way is the best way.  I may repeatedly tell my teenagers that, but Tindell puts feet to it and makes it real. 

As a middle age mother, I actually found comfort in Tindell’s words as she recognized God’s intervening grace, love and redemption in her life.  If you are a mother of a teenage girl who is testing the boundaries, this book could give a glimpse into what she may be dealing with and how to respond.  I might recommend reading it before giving it to your daughter so that you can talk about it together.  There are aspects to which we can all relate to and talk about – listening to lies and trading something good for something bad because it appears to be more self-gratifying at the moment.

I had the opportunity to read the book with my 17-year-old daughter Emily (strong-willed, independent and stubborn) and her teenage friend Miranda.  In summary, they thought the author was too hung up on the idea of popularity when there are so many other reasons that girls may choose boys and booze.    Here are their thoughts, one more enthusiastic than the other:

Miranda’s review:  I think the temptations that teens face are more about getting away from feelings and wanting to have fun more than it is about being popular.  Feelings are exaggerated and sometimes they just hurt really bad, and to escape them is a big part of it.  Apart from that, I could really relate to what she had to say – especially about her first love, the heart break, and temptations to have sex.  I wish I had read this book two years ago.

Emily’s review: I don’t like to read often unless it's a book that pulls me in from the start and has an awesome plot. This book was not one of them. The title of the book made me not even want to open it – my mom bribed me. The word “popular” is out of date. The subtitle of the book would have been more intriguing. I don’t know a single teen that has sex, does drugs, and drinks just to be “popular.” We do it because it feels good or maybe relieves pain we are feeling.  This book has a lot of repetitiveness about popularity and I felt like the writer was just trying too hard. The second part of the book did get better. It didn’t repeat as much, it was just slower than the first part of the book.
I was provided a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for me and my daughter's honest review. 


  1. Paula,
    Interesting sounding book, and how neat that you got two others to co-review this book with you. Really, I found Miranda's and Emily's comments very interesting, especially since Cheryl and I just had our youngest daughter leave the teen years within the past year.

    To Miranda - Your comment about teens doing things to get away from feelings turned a light switch on for me. I thought in terms of popularity for many teen decisions, but your insight helps explain the behavior of some teens in a clearer way for me. Thanks. I am a minister and work with several families and teens on decision making, boundaries, etc. This will be helpful.

    I wonder if instead of using the word "popular" the word "connection" might not work better? I think you are right that a lot of teen behavior (even misbehavior) may not make them popular in the whole high school, but it might connect them to several other students. That connection is life-giving and life-sustaining, and some kids will nearly kill themselves making such a connection, and I mean that literally. I've seen some just recently do some very self-destructive things, either to get away from feelings or to make a connection.

    Emily - I notice that you, too, refer to teens doing things not to be popular but to relieve pain or experience pleasure. I wonder if the idea of connecting with someone might not fit in the discussion here as well? Connection is to be popular but to feel like you have someone who cares.

    I teen boy I know right now is doing some extreme things right now, including illegal things. He has been violent in the home. When his mom finally got him to talk he said he was acting out because he feels no one cares for him. He is relieving pain and looking for a connection. Sadly, the people he is connecting to reinforce his negative, destructive, and illegal behavior.

    Emily, it is a shame you don't like to read more. Both of you seem to have a good comprehension of what you read and express yourselves succinctly and with clarity. I think you would make a good reader and writer.

    Emily and Miranda - I have a blog post up now on parenting (The Home is Not a Democracy) on Family Fountain. I would like a teen perspective on it. If you will read it and comment, I will send each of you a copy of my book on Proverbs. And don't worry, even though the book is 200 pages, the chapters are very small - I wrote them to be read in 3 to 4 minutes. And, none of the chapters are dependent on other chapters, so you can read for 4 minutes and not read again for another week and you haven't lost any momentum.

    And, if you'll accept the offer, please do not feel like you have to agree with the article. Tell me very frankly what you don't like about it. One thing I like about teens is when you ask their opinion they tend to be honest. (My 20 year old daughter is still like a teen in that way :).

    Very good blog post.


    1. Thanks, Warren! And thank for your encouraging words to Emily and Miranda. I will pass the word onto Miranda. Emily will read your post in the next day or two and let you know what she thinks. But let me warn you, she is VERY opinionated and is not shy about being honest! I'm interested in hearing her thoughts about your post too. :)

    2. Also, Warren, Emily completely agrees with your view of connectedness instead of popularity as what teens are seeking. Tindell talks about this in her book too, how she was able to find that not only in Jesus but through other believers and her local church.

  2. Whoops, I'm in a hurry so I made a couple of errors. The first paragraph to Emily should say, "Connection is NOT to be popular but to feel like you have someone who cares."

    The next paragraph should say "A teen boy ..."

    There are others but hopefully you won't catch them.