A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Kids in Worm's school district learn about the kids who have died in car accidents around their state. In eighth grade, they're asked to wear black shirts and to "adopt" a dead kid so that they can learn to empathize with these kids.
Even if someone is shy, it doesn't mean that person doesn't have a life. Parents can love you even when you're unable to show them love. Don't miss out on your life. Being bold doesn't mean being fearless. A book can change your life. You have permission to be yourself. It's OK to be imperfect. Forgive yourself. Learn about people by stepping into their shoes. Don't be afraid to grow. Going against the grain is OK, especially if you're being true to yourself.
Positive Role Models
Worm's dad is a cheerleader for Worm, talking to him even when Worm doesn't respond. The writer called Daisy Chimes encourages her readers to believe in themselves. Characters are assumed to be White.
Violence & Scariness
Kids plan to gather to watch kids fight after school gets out. Kids who die in a car crash are called "Wrappers" by the majority of Worm's school (because they die wrapped around a tree). The main character feels like "smacking" his teacher when he's the last student to be called to leave the classroom. Violence against girls is considered normal: "Worm, like many boys, grew up believing any boy can beat up any girl." The main male character shoves a girl "so hard she lurches backwards," screams in her face, making her cry, and feels like "slapping her face." Girls "started smacking each other" at a fight.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Hand-holding, some kissing. The main character feels a girl's breast touching his arm. A guy boasts about "making moves" on girls.
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"Damn," "hell," "screw that," "crap."
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Products & Purchases
Brands mentioned include M&Ms, Clearasil, Reese's, Tic Tac, Dollar General, Heinz, Right Guard.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
High school kids smoke cigarettes, are known to start drinking at age 16.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Dead Wednesday is a novel that explores what happens when the ghost of a teen girl visits a teen boy during a school day devoted to kids' who've died in car crashes. Sometimes kids are crass in the way that they refer to dead teens (they're called "Wrappers" because they've died in a car crash and were "wrapped" around a tree, or "Deaders"). Kids in eighth grade are asked to spend a day dressed in black and are ignored by their teachers in order to promote sympathy for these teens. Boys tend to talk about girls as if they're objects, either "impressed" with their looks, or shrugging them off as irrelevant. Girls are portrayed as giggling or posing, flirtatious or mean. Ther's some kissing and hand holding. Teens who smoke throw cigarettes at other kids when making fun of them. A main character shoves a girl so hard she lurches backward and falls down, then he screams at her, calling her names. He feels "like slapping her." She forgives him immediately and concedes to his point. Characters are assumed to be White.
Is It Any Good?
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.
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.