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 story takes place in a tough urban neighborhood where there is always a threat of gang violence. At one point the boys are involved in a big fight with several gang members -- no one is seriously hurt. There are also several incidents of teen-boy banter about girls, mainly revolving around looks and body parts.
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What's the story?
Shawn is looking forward to spending the summer before high school hanging out with his friends. He hopes to get a glimpse of his crush Marisol and maybe think of a way to talk to her -- and he hopes to keep out of the way of rival gangs in the neighborhood. Each day before they leave to play basketball or hang out, Shawn and his friends do a \"color check\" to make sure that none of them are wearing any gang colors -- blue or red. Despite their careful planning, run-ins with the gangs happen leaving Shawn to wonder if it's worth staying with his friends and going to high school in gang territory or leaving them and Marisol behind to go to a safer school where he doesn't know anyone.
Is it any good?
CHAMELEON has the lazy, drifty feel of summer where little events are almost barely worth mentioning except that they matter in the life of a 14-year-old. At the heart of this story is Shawn and he's a sweet and thoughtful kid. He struggles with knowing what to say to girls, is wary about the challenges high school holds, and takes good care of his alcoholic aunt when she's supposed to be caring for him.
What is great about Shawn, his friends, and this book is it shows good kids in urban neighborhoods, the ones that have involved parents and are careful not to get involved in the dangerous world around them. They have simple fun, play teenage pranks, and have crushes, just like teens in wealthier, suburban neighborhoods. Most urban novels have a lead character who wants to be good, but is caught in a no-win situation or is living a destitute, hopeless exsistence. So while Chameleon isn't a gripping read in any sense, it sure is refreshing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about friendship. Shawn's friends played an important part in his decision on where to attend high school. How did Shawn's friends show that they were true friends? What did Shawn do to help his friends out? Why is it important to stand up for your friends?