Parents' Guide to

Dead Wednesday

By Joly Herman, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Book about dead teens promotes exploration of empathy.

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An exploration of death and empathy struggles with objectifying death and girls to make a point. In Dead Wednesday, the main character, Robbie, aka Worm, has some self-esteem issues. He's painfully shy, for one, and he has horrible acne, which makes him hate to be noticed. Yet his best friend is really popular, which makes Worm both crave the spotlight and loathe it. He seems to both want girls' attention and want to slap them, or punish them. And at one point he does use his pent-up aggression to shove a girl to the ground and "scream" at her on a whim, admitting he feels "like slapping her face." His mother ruins his day by asking him to follow through with a responsibility, and he admits he "hates" his female teacher for making him do something he doesn't want to do. He doesn't have hateful thoughts for his male friends or for his dad.

This machismo, the shyness that cloaks a desire for power, distracts from some interesting ideas about death and growth. If the female characters were developed more wholly, and if Worm and his friends weren't so afraid of being called a "girl" (an insult that's thrown their way more than once), the connection between Worm and his newfound "spectral maiden" friend would land more successfully. The last few chapters of the book do find their stride, however, and the ending is enjoyable.

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