A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What 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.
What's the story?
In this modern "re-telling" of Faust and his bargain with the devil, four 10-year-old children are already so deeply scarred by their parents that they are willing to run away with the devil, who is in the guise of a cruel governess. One of them even gives the devil her twin sister in exchange for physical beauty. After honing their new gifts for five years, the devil introduces them into a private and very posh prep school in Manhattan. The teens quickly claw their way to the top of the social rankings: Bella as the Queen Bee/It Girl; Victoria as the scholar; Christian as the athlete; and Valentin as the poet. Their ambitions and cruelty are matched by the very rich students around them, who are getting wind of their secret. After a few months some of the "Faust" children recognize their mistake and try to make a run for it, but how do hide from the devil?
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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the classic story this book is so loosely based on. What made that story a classic?
What made each of the main characters strike a bargain with the devil? Did they realize she was the devil, or were they innocent in intent? Could they have known what they were doing when they were 10 years old?
The authors seem to imply that in each family, it was the parents who made the kids what they were. What did Bella's parents do to make her want only beauty?
Do you think life at the Marlowe school was realistic? Do the very rich live in a different world, with different rules, than everyone else?
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