Between Us and the Moon

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Between Us and the Moon Book Poster Image
Honest, complex story of girl's first sexual relationship.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of scientific facts and observations; practical application of scientific principles and theory to real-life situations; information on astronomy of marine exploration.

Positive Messages

Sarah emerges confident and wiser and reasonably wounded by what she's done. She has a deeper understanding of how relationships work and the importance of authenticity and honesty.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Sarah is smart and logical, though emotionally immature and self-absorbed. Her efforts to examine how she relates to others and spread her wings are laudable, and she realizes too late how much she can hurt others. Her relationship with her sister isn't easy, but there's a real connection beneath the bickering. Sarah's parents are distracted and unsupportive but not unkind. Gran and her partner are warm, wise confidants. Andrew is very responsible and open-hearted.

Violence

An intoxicated teen physically restrains a girl, leading to a fight with another teen. Brief recounting of another teen's death in a drunk-driving accident.

Sex

Descriptions of kissing, giving and receiving oral sex, first exposure to a penis, and intercourse. Lots of attention to physical attractiveness. The young lovers are reasonably portrayed: He's more experienced and is gentle and considerate, taking care not to make her uncomfortable. 

Language

Teens swear, often when angry or frustrated and usually in conversation with each other: "f--k," "d--kwad," "damn," "hell," "shit," "ass," "bitch," "bastard."

Consumerism

Mentions of several consumer products (Barbie, Babybel, Coke) and many cars (including Mercedes, BMW, Prius).

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens, including main character, drink alcohol at parties. One older teen, who lost his best friend to a drunk driver, is careful not to drink when he's driving. Other teens at parties smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Between Us and the Moon is a coming-of-age story with strong sexual content. It details a 16-year-old girl's sexual awakening as she tries to figure out who she is and who she wants to be. She lies about her age and finds her deceit compounded as her relationship deepens. She also deceives her family in pursuit of her new persona. The sexual content is frank, but each sexual encounter is portrayed as affectionate, considerate, and sincere. Adults seem oblivious to teens' relationships and social activities, which include a fair amount of partying and drinking.

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What's the story?

Logical, stargazing Sarah feels overshadowed by her beautiful, popular older sister, Scarlett. After she's dumped a week before her 16th birthday, Sarah launches her Scarlett Experiment: During her summer at the beach, she'll test whether acting like Scarlett makes her more likable. When she meets handsome Andrew, who's almost 20, she impulsively lies about her age. But there's a real spark between the two: He genuinely appreciates her intelligence and is charmed by her clumsiness, and she falls hard for him. Sarah feels she can be herself -- her new self -- with him, but her lie threatens everything ... especially as their relationship becomes sexual. Coming clean would mean risking everything, but she may not have a choice.

Is it any good?

By pretending to be someone else, 16-year-old Sarah finds herself, but the journey isn't all moonbeams and roses in this honest story of a complicated sexual awakening. Themes of authenticity and the need for connection give weight to the summer romance in BETWEEN US AND THE MOON. Rebecca Maizel offers a classic romantic hero: Andrew is gorgeous, sensitive, and responsible and loves working with troubled kids. Sarah is more interesting: Her desires and drive are relatable, but her poor choices betray a lack of experience with relationships of all kinds. Though the sexual content will raise some eyebrows, it depicts sexual intimacy as loving and attentive.

There are strong messages here about immaturity, selfishness, and trying to do too much too soon, but they're undermined by the abrupt ending. It's clear from the start that this romance is unlikely to last: We follow Sarah's Internal torment and glimpse the damage she causes, but we don't see the hard work of putting the pieces back together.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the frank sexual content of this book. Do you think it's appropriate, realistic, romanticized, or helpful? Parents may want to read our advice on sexual content and media to help guide the conversation.

  • How does this book compare with romantic stories you've read? Do you think this is primarily a romance story?

  • How do you feel about Sarah, Andrew, and Scarlett by the story's end? What do you think Sarah's junior year is like?

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