A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
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.
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?
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