What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know this book is full of crass sexual language and attitudes that are degrading to women (albeit by characters portrayed as dim-witted at best). It mentions sex with sheep, oral sex during menstruation, and finding "a wart you know where." It features constant swearing and several scenes of characters smoking pot and drinking to excess.
What's the story?
Scarred by seeing her father cheating with a graduate student, Olivia swears off boys and throws herself into a summer arts camp, where she plans to write a musical, "Castration Celebration." A cute boy, Max, weakens her determination, but is Max willing to wait for her? As the characters in Olivia's play, loosely based on Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing, mirror her own experiences, the teens work through issues of sex, dating, and friendship.
Is it any good?
Everyone has heard a story that has the teller laughing but leaves listeners wondering what was so funny. "I guess you had to be there" is the common explanation. CASTRATION CELEBRATION readers will feel like that through much of the novel, as Wizner describes his characters falling into "a fit of hysterics" over things that simply aren't very funny. He works too hard informing readers that his shallow main characters are "witty" and their bantering "sharp," when authentic dialogue and an interesting plot arc would have gone a lot further.
There's plenty for parents to find questionable, but most of it is so lame that the real travesty is Wizner's bastardization of Shakespeare. The novel may appeal to readers who enjoy the crude humor of Judd Apatow movies (Superbad), but it can't carry off what centers those movies: a genuine heart.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about how Olivia's emotions come out through her writing. How does art help teenagers express themselves?
They can talk about Max's contention that "the penis has a mind of its own." Olivia wonders, "Is a whole guy's life just one big struggle between what he wants and what society says is okay?" Ask teens what they think.
Families can talk about whether the level of sexual talk is frank or potentially off-putting. For more tips about addressing sexual content in media, see Common Sense's parent advice.