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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers have the chance to compare the angel, nephilim, demon, vampire, fairy, and werewolf lore presented here with other depictions of fantasy creatures.
Family comes in many forms but hiding a big part of yourself away, even to protect loved ones, can hurt those relationships. Treat everyone as an equal, even if finding common ground is hard. Sometimes people who appear bad have good qualities, just like good people can do evil things.
Positive Role Models
Clary is brave, facing both scary demons and scary truths about who she really is. Jace and Simon dislike each other but eventually come together to help Clary. Alec, Isabella, and Jace are a team and a chosen family. But these characters frequently call each other names, talk down to each other, and make rude, inappropriate comments. When upset, they act out by shoving and hitting. A trusted adult advisor turns against the teens in his care.
Main characters are White. A few people of color have minor roles but are stereotyped (for instance, a gay Asian warlock wears a silk kimono and turban and has a cat named "Chairman Meow"). Two women are important to the plot but are jealous and competitive with each other. Characters often rate women's bodies and clothing. Other gender stereotypes include women nurses and assistants being asked to "do what they're told." A main character is gay and struggles with telling his family. Other characters joke that gay and trans people are sexually inappropriate.
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Violence & Scariness
Lots of fantasy violence, often with swords and knives, some rather gory, including throat cutting and description of blood. Battles to the death between human Shadowhunters and demons, vampires, and werewolves. A teen describes past physical abuse by his father, including the murder of his pet. Brief talk of suicide. Clary's mother is kidnapped, and Clary imagines the worst.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Teens talk about wanting to date and sleep with each other. Kissing. A mistaken identity leads to an awkward romantic situation. A few jokes about "reproducing" and "kinky" things.
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Language includes "bitch," "a--hole," "bastard," exclamations such as "sucks" and "jerk," and insults like "d--khead," "asshat," "idiot," and "brain-dead moron." Other ableist language includes "midget," "lame," and "crazy." "Transvestite" is incorrectly used to describe a trans person.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Herbal ecstasy and "looking stoned" mentioned. Smoking and drinking by teens in bars.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that City of Bones, by Cassandra Clare, is the first installment of The Mortal Instruments, an urban fantasy book series about monsters and magical Shadowhunters. Violence includes gory battles with swords and knives (throat cutting, etc.). Also, there's some kissing and talk of teens sleeping together as well as light drinking and smoking. Language includes "bitch," "a--hole," "bastard," etc. This is the start of a series that explores some compelling ideas, such as what makes a family and whether it's OK to hide a big part of yourself away from loved ones, even if it's to protect them. A big takeaway is to treat everyone as an equal. Unfortunately, characters are often mean to each other: Calling each other names like "d--khead" and "asshat," making rude comments, even hitting and shoving. The book has a little diversity, but people of color, women, and LGBTQ+ characters are sometimes stereotyped.
Is It Any Good?
Teen urban fantasy is a popular subgenre, and this first installment of a six-book series has the essential elements. In City of Bones, author Cassandra Clare offers a complex world with reams of backstory involving many characters, creatures, factions, and relationships. In addition to the various sides among Shadowhunters, there are also vampires, werewolves, faeries, warlocks, and others, each with their own politics, powers, and agendas. Unfortunately, Clare's characterization of teen behavior (jealous girls, boys who evaluate girls' bodies and then get violent when upset) is clichéd. Paired with the lack of diverse characters and a reliance on racial, gender, and sexual stereotypes, the book feels outdated.
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.
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