Here's a very in-depth review from DPreview of the Sony NEX
In the NYTimes, David Pogue says nice things about this camera
If she is serious about photography, I'd go with a true SLR for all the manual stuff. The Sony NEX is a hybrid.
If you like the hybrid camera, you might also consider the Canon S95, loved by David Pogue
. It's small and very nice. I'm personally a huge fan of the Lumix LX3, which has recently been replaced by the LX5. DPreview has a brand new comparison of the Canon S95, the Lumix LX5 and Nikon P7000
. I can't say enough good things about the Lumix LX3.