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American Girl dolls have always been more than just a simple plaything — each character's back story, told through accompanying books, offers a window into life during a particular historical period.

There was pioneer girl Kirsten Larson; Kit Kittredge, an aspiring reporter during the Great Depression; and Addy Walker, who escapes enslavement during the Civil War.

And now there's an American Girl from modern-day Minnesota.

The brand's newer Girl of the Year series features contemporary American girls whose stories delve into current social and emotional issues, from experiencing racism to becoming part of a blended family. And this year's edition, Lila Monetti, is a 10-year-old from St. Paul, wresting with balancing her passions of gymnastics and horseback riding, along with changing friendships.

American Girl is known for the research behind its characters and their stories. Erin Falligant, the author of Lila's journal and upcoming book, "Lila Goes for Gold," visited the Twin Cities to get a sense of her protagonist's community. She also immersed herself in both a gymnastics school and horseback riding camp in Wisconsin to better bring Lila's hobbies to life.

Though the story nods to hypercompetitive youth sports — the 10-year-old worries she'll "fall behind" in gymnastics if she goes to horseback riding camp — Lila soon realizes that each activity helps her improve her skill with the other. And that she can set goals and dedicate herself to her hobbies while still maintaining strong friendships, both human and equine.

Having Lila hail from the Midwest helps soften the blow for local fans still mourning the loss of American Girl's Mall of America store, which closed in 2019.