Mandie Shaw, Nancy Drew, Anne of Green Gables, and Elsie Dinsmore were close companions of mine throughout the teen years. I also enjoyed as occasional playmates Sierra Jensen and Christy Miller.

I now regret some of those friendships.

As a voracious reader, I devoured practically everything that came my way, from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to the entire Anne of Green Gables series to War and Peace and even an ill-fated attempt at James Joyce's Ulysses. And while I initially loved homiletic literature like In His Steps and the Elsie Dinsmore series, and the ubiquitous Christy Miller and Sierra Jensen novels, I've since wondered if those novels did more harm than help.

Ruth Graham's excellent article in Slate discusses the merits of Christian "chick lit" as a "grounded alternative to the Gossip Girl landscape." This is likely a fair comparison, although admittedly I haven't read the Gossip Girl book series, now eclipsed in popularity by the TV series of the same name. What I question is whether Christians should be reading, or writing, anything that merits comparison to Gossip Girl, and whether today's variety of popular Christian fiction is healthier—or more "grounded"—than its secular counterpart.

Elsie Dinsmore, for those who haven't met her, is a very good 12-year-old in the antebellum South, who is cared for hand and foot by slaves and spreads kindness and doormat-like subservience among everyone she meets. Questions of slavery and Dinsmore's pampered upbringing aside, Dinsmore's Christianity is unlike anything I've seen anywhere—including the Bible. Even Jesus and Paul got angry when occasion demanded; in the 26-book series, ...

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