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A Really Nice Prom Mess
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this novel gives a humorous slant to a lot of dangerous behavior by teens, including drinking, buying and smoking pot, eluding police, and visiting strip clubs. When one drunk teen vomits into a fish tank, for example, another character quips, "At least you won't have to feed the fish for a while." While the ultimate message is acceptance, the book reinforces questionable stereotypes (for example, when Cameron screams, he says, "I know I'm gay and a sissy and all that"; several adult men hit on Cameron and one informs him that in terms of sexiness, "in the gay world, a teenager trumps a twenty-something any day of the year.") Cameron briefly contemplates suicide; this is treated in a superficial way. Cameron and Shane worry about telling their families and friends they're gay, but everyone accepts the news pretty well, with one friend just upset he hadn't known the truth sooner.
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What's the story?
Cameron and his boyfriend are still in the proverbial closet, so they go to prom together with their respective girl dates. The night starts badly -- Cameron's date, Virginia, is drunk and upset her guy is gay -- and deteriorates from there, as Cameron fights with his boyfriend, Shane, and gets stoned with Shane's date, Jane (but only after Virginia's hair catches on fire). Over the course of the evening, he runs away with a Russian drug dealer, enters a gay strip contest, flees from police in a high-speed chase, and befriends a handsome cop. As Cameron notes, \"the arc of my prom night was headed toward the toilet with touchdown likely in the jailhouse crapper.\"
Is it any good?
Teens may enjoy this madcap adventure, though it veers from ridiculous to absurd to preposterous. Cameron's first-person voice mannerisms can grow tedious and his epiphanies fall on the stale side. Readers may doubt Cameron's professed love of Shane when he manages to make out with four other people in one night.
Even as the unlikely coincidences rack up, though, Sloan keeps his main character grounded with heartfelt scenes, such as one where Cameron confronts his lying boyfriend: "This is not about your lame attempt to make everyone think you're straight. This is about us and the fact you don't love me. Period." There are a few gay stereotypes, but some empowered moments too: after listening to several people call him a "fag," Cameron finally bursts out that "using that term to describe us is incredibly offensive."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether a single night can live up to all of prom's hype and expectations. Parents can share their own prom experiences and how they coped with related pressures to drink or have sex. So many movies have similar themes, including the recent Superbad -- why do you think that is? What characters do you relate to the most?