I'm confused as to why this book should be kept out of the hands of kids younger than 18! Indeed, it is disturbing material, but I feel it is handled in a sensitive and accessible (graphic) format. A child experiencing any kind of abuse might find this book to be an extremely hopeful and redemptive reading experience. For kids fortunate enough to come from healthy households, this book can open up productive conversations with parents about mental health, family dynamics, and the resiliency of the human spirit.
For mature young adults not recommended for younger audiences
Personally I thought this was an excellent graphic novel. I read this one because it was nominated for a National Book award in the Young Peoples category. Though entered in this category, I would not recommend this title for anyone under the age of 16. Emotional abuse, sex, a little swearing, and some images of smoking are found throughout.
I would recommend this title for older mature teens as this book would lend itself well for discussion, a great book to read along with your older teen.
I read the advanced reader's copy of this book, actually given to me and autographed by Small himself at a national library conference. He cautioned me not to have any children read it; so I read it at night when the kids were in bed. A very frank look at a really disturbing childhood. That Small was able to overcome everything he experienced/witnessed as a child could be inspirational but only to those older than 17.
It does send a very good message about getting professional help and how mental health professionals saved his life. However, once I read it, I felt uncomfortable keeping it in the house. I was worried that if my [tween] kids found the graphic novel on a shelf, they may pick it up thinking it was something they could read.
Did it deserve a National Book Award-yes, for young peoples, no.
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