A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Although this is a re-telling of Faust, there is really no aspect of redemption to these tales. Also, there's some negative stereotyping of cultures such as the "Pakastani" students, and the driven, oblivious parents.
Positive Role Models
The kids are mean, and sad; the parents are mean, and of course, the devil is completely heartless. The idea that four children could have so much hate and envy that they would sell their souls at the age of 10 is disturbing. Still, two of the teens have refused to make a deal with the devil; one of them gives in only to later regret his deal. The willingness of the children to sell their souls is almost entirely blamed on horrible parents. There are no redeeming adult characters. Famous historical characters are referred to at the beginning of chapters, as if they possibly had sold their souls to acquire their greatness, which may confuse readers.
Violence & Scariness
Bella fights physically with another high school girl; Christian is given a human "dummy" to practice his martial arts on. Bella's curse is physically painful to her. The devil physically attacks Christian. Valentin is able to freeze time and live out his fantasies that way and admits that in one of those times he shot every student in his prep school.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Bella's beauty enables her to seduce males of any age, including a teacher who vows love and lust for her. When Valentin is ten years old he finds his mother with a lover. Bella romances a high school boy who will not even kiss her. Valentin has a slightly creepy flirtation with the devil who masquerades as the governess.
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Infrequent bad language includes "hell," "slut," and "ho-bag."
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Products & Purchases
No brand names, but much description of the beautiful surroundings of the rich.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Valentin's father is an alcoholic; adults drink at parties; the devil/governess offers drinks to Valentin; Bella and a classmate pop pills.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the authors have used social media (twitter DinaNV or DanielNayeri), created play lists for their characters, and created an ANOTHER FAUST Facebook page, so there may a lot of buzz about this book among teen readers. The setting among the very rich, private school world so popular in the Gossip Girl series may attract fans, but as is fitting a modern telling of Faust and the devil, this story is dark, and the characters are not sympathetic at all. The idea that four children could have so much hate and envy that they would sell their souls at the age of 10 distorts the original story and dilutes its power, so any educational value of "introducing" teen readers to a classic is pretty much lost. The kids are mean, and sad; the parents are mean, and of course, the devil is completely heartless.
Is It Any Good?
The brother-and-sister team who authored the book are in their twenties and are using social networking tools such as Twitter and Facebook to market it; unfortunately, the writing is not very good. The characters are not very likable or well developed. The bargains the "Faust" children made and the gifts they received in return are revealed too slowly.
Although the Faust teens begin to pay dearly for their deals (as if giving up their soul wasn't enough), we don't get to know them well enough to care. They are beautiful, humorless, and soulless, so their ruthlessness is not very surprising, or as sad as it should be. For example, Bella has chosen to give up everything in return for physical beauty, but has to pay with breath so bad that no one will come near her. She is rotting from the inside out, a pretty shell only (the story hits the reader over the head in case they miss the point). This story really should be a satire about the superficial values of our society that drives teens to obsess over perfection, but there's no humor in it. You can't have effective satire without humor.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.