And Then Things Fall Apart

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
And Then Things Fall Apart Book Poster Image
Smart, self-aware teen is obsessed with sex, Sylvia Plath.

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Kids say

age 17+
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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens may be turned on to Sylvia Plath’s work after reading how deeply it touches Keek and influences her understanding of the world.

Positive Messages

Keek underscores the importance of being authentic, of knowing your values, and acting according to them. In her isolation, Keek realizes just how important her relationships are -- even the painful, difficult ones. Rather than letting herself be buffeted by the forces surrounding her, she takes some control by owning her opinions and decisions.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Keek, for all her navel-gazing, has a solid head on her shoulders and a brave spirit. And her parents may be absorbed in their own problems -- they certainly behave badly, with immoral and illegal behavior between the two of them -- but their love and affection for her are clear. Gram is a true gem, no-nonsense and full of surprises.  


Keek occasionally mentions wanting to kill herself like Sylvia Plath, but they are half-joking references and clearly insincere -- she clearly doesn’t approve of the way Plath took her own life.


Keek and her boyfriend do a lot of “making out insanely” and “acting like feral creatures,” and there’s plenty of sexual content: hickeys, tentatively exploring each other’s bodies, talking about what a penis tastes like, etc. Keek makes many vulgar and angry references to her father’s fling with a young employee.


Keek is a mouthy teen. Lots of crass language, including "f--k," "for Christ’s sake," "s--t," "hell," "bastard," "t-ts," "slut," "whore," "asshole," "goddamn," "jackass," and the euphemistic “sofa king.”


Plenty of products are peppered throughout, befitting a teen’s world: Netflix, Wii, Google, Facebook, Downy, Snapfish, iPod, Johnson & Johnson, Cheetos, and Pampers all get noted.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Keek tries to smoke with her older friend Amanda and drinks wine at a party; Gram smokes; Amanda says she and Keek’s father were drunk when they got involved; and Keek’s mom calls her long-distance while drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that sexual issues are front and center in this smartly written book. Keek is obsessed with the physical aspect of her relationship with Matt and struggling to decide if she's ready to have sex. She's also very angry with her father, who was caught having sex with a young woman Keek was friends with. There's lots of salty language. It's mature stuff, but handled with maturity and wit.

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Kid, 9 years old December 5, 2011

all rounder

this book has al of the things familes should know

What's the story?

In the summer before her sophomore year, 15-year-old Keek is quarantined at her Gram’s house with a bad case of chicken pox and a dog-eared copy of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. Her mother is in California tending to her sister’s premature newborn; her father is living in Gram’s basement after getting caught in an affair with a young woman at the family’s restaurant who had been Keek’s good friend. Not only is Keek an emotional wreck over her parents’ looming divorce, but she’s also struggling to decide whether to lose her virginity and have sex with her longtime boyfriend. Keek spends her convalescence with Plath and an old typewriter, hashing out her thoughts on her family, her boyfriend, her friends, and herself.

Is it any good?

The limited confines of the book -- feverish Keek, alone with her thoughts -- make for a slow start, and it’s a relief when she starts to have fun with her Gram and reconnects with her friends. Young readers will feel instantly at home with her: She writes with a dry, self-aware voice. Her obsession with her boyfriend, her frustration, her moodiness, and her vulgarity are on target for a teen in her circumstances.

Her identification with Sylvia Plath's heroine, Esther Greenwood, gives her a way to tackle the drama in her life, while her independent spirit assures she finds her own answers. In her isolation and frenzied self-expression, Keek can focus on being authentic and is able to accept the consequences for that, both good and bad. Parents might be taken aback by how obsessed Keek is with her virginity, but many teen girls will find a kindred spirit -- much like Keek finds with Esther.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Keek's identification with Sylvia Plath and her famous heroine, Esther Greenwood. Have you felt a similar connection to a fictional character? Has a book ever helped you cope with a complicated time in your life?

  • Keek talks about knowing what is supposed to be sexy, citing advertisements for personal care products and magazines. Then she says, "I can be that kind of sexy, whether or not I think it is really, truly, and authentically sexy -- like, to me.” And she says she still doesn't know what she finds sexy. Do you think many teenagers decide for themselves what's sexy, or do images in media define expectations?

Book details

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For kids who love coming-of-age stuff

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