A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The story takes Jules and other teens to the University of Chicago, where they, and readers, learn a bit about campus life, and Trey, in particular, sees new horizons as a result.
Strong messages about family loyalty, hard work, supporting your siblings, and why you have to try to help people even if they're strangers.
Positive Role Models
Like many real-life teens, Sawyer, Jules, and her siblings have strong consciences and good values, which doesn't mean they always do the right thing or what they're told. Jules and Sawyer cut class and sneak around to be together; Jules covers for her younger sister when she flies to New York to meet her long-distance boyfriend (whose parents are unaware she doesn't have permission). But given that Sawyer's father beats him and Jules' is mentally ill, they're doing their best in bad circumstances, struggling to do right by each other and their neighbors.
Violence & Scariness
Sawyer's visions show a mass shooting, which the teens try to avert. Characters sometimes behave violently: Jules gets caught up in a catfight at school, Sawyer's father beats him, and one scene has hand-to-hand combat and gunplay. Antigay violence and homophobia are plot elements.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
None of the characters has sex, but there's powerful attraction going on: Jules and Sawyer manage some very heavy kissing, during which "suddenly I realize that what's pressing against me is not all thigh, and I am secretly amazed and a little shocked by it being there, doing that." She considers the practical difficulty boys deal with having penises. A senile customer regularly pinches Jules' mom on the butt.
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Plentiful uses of "f--k," "s--t," "crap," "fag," and others, and lots of bawdy humor about the family food truck, dubbed "the balls" because of its meatball art.
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Products & Purchases
Occasional references to pop-culture icons, such as Star Wars.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Bang is the second installment of Lisa McCann's Visions trilogy, which started with Crash. Like the first book, Bang has profanity galore ("f--k," "s--t," "crap," "boob," and antigay slurs), and there's more sexual talk than in Crash. There are also a couple of steamy make-out scenes, violence (a school shooting, general brawling, a father who beats his son), and two sets of dysfunctional parents. But the book also has a strong moral compass: Despite raging hormones, teen love, and her parents' constant paranoia that she's pregnant, 16-year-old protagonist Jules is not sexually active; she's strongly loyal to her siblings and works hard to help her family. There are true ethical dilemmas: How much obligation do we really have to help strangers, and what happens if we walk away? Also, as star-crossed, family-feud-plagued lovers go, Jules and Sawyer do a better job than, say, Romeo and Juliet in taking control of and responsibility for their lives.
Is It Any Good?
There's plenty to keep teen readers riveted here. The family drama and visions of disaster add constant suspense, and the steamy make-out scenes are punctuated by speculation on how sex suddenly makes the whole world different. Prolific author Lisa McCann crafts a compelling (if somewhat frothy and potty-mouthed) tale that raises plenty of real-life issues: coping with abusive families, building real relationships, and the kindness of strangers.
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.