What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need ot know that there is a lot of sex stuff here: Dakota and Jena have a pretty intense make-out session shortly after meeting at the resort and he and Skye both talk about having sex in high school. There is lots of adult language, including sex-related words, and characters drink and smoke. Even more, characters are dealing with heavy stuff: Dakota's girlfriend died in a car accident and Jena finds a mysterious suicide note while on vacation. Overall, while characters make a point to change themselves for the better, this is definitely a book for mature readers.
What's the story?
This book is narrated by four different teens: Jena and Skye -- opposites whose mothers were college roommates -- and brothers Dakota and Owen. All four end up spending their Spring Break at an expensive Caribbean resort. During their vacation, self-esteem challenged Jena ends up hooking up with Dakota, who quickly ditches her for stunning model/actress Skye. Meanwhile, shy Owen spends most of his vacation writing on his blog, Loser With a Laptop. As they recount their own stories over the next few months, these characters reveal some intense personal struggles: Dakota's cheerleader girlfriend died in a car crash and seemingly perfect Skye struggles with a secret no one suspects. And they each grow up in some important way, too ... and one pair even finds unexpected love.
Is it any good?
This is a complicated piece of work, but Mackler handles her material well. She even manages to make each character sympathetic -- including those who don't seem very nice on the surface. As with many novels narrated by multiple characters, readers will identify with some of protagonists more than others. Also, because Mackler is juggling so much plot here, not all the characters or plot points get fully developed -- this is especially true in Dakota's story, where he meets an interesting woman right as he is wrapping up his section.
But overall, readers will find plenty to keep them engaged, from Jena's discovery of a mysterious suicide note, to Dakota's attempt to work "on the karma thing" -- and even a very sweet romance that blossoms between nerdy but nice Jena and Owen.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about responsibility. In the beginning of this book, Jena finds an anonymous suicide note. She is concerned but Dakota tells her that if someone wants to die, "I'm not going to stop you." What would you do if you found a note like that? Would you tell an adult, or keep it a secret like Dakota suggests?
Because she is a model/actress, Skye spends a lot of time watching what she eats and keeping out of the sun. What kind of sacrifices would you make for fame? Would you drop out of school to spend more time on your career? Give up your favorite junk food? If you were Skye's mom, would you want your daughter to sacrifice so much at such a young age?
Owen gets sent to a camp for kids who are so obsessed with technology that they've failed to develop social skills. Obviously, the camp is a bad fit for him -- but are programs like this necessary? Do you know kids that spend more time with media then they do with real life? Do you think there's a problem with being always plugged in?