A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that a forbidden romance dominates this dystopian fantasy. The love connection at its core is idealized and stays pretty innocent: Lena and Alex kiss and he takes off her shirt. The amount of violence is pretty typical for the genre. The main character remembers the suicide of her mother more than a decade earlier to avoid the "procedure" -- essentially brain surgery every U.S. citizen endures to remove their ability to be infected by Amor Deliria Nervosa, or love. The threat of death hovers over Lena and Alex if the couple is found out, plus batons are used on victims and there's some shooting. Despite only a faint backstory of how this future United States got this way, the book still sets up a good debate about why a society would make everyone "safe" from strong emotion.
What's the story?
The future United States is a place of extreme order and apathy, thanks to a government-required procedure that all citizens must submit to at 18 to protect them from Amore Deleria Nervosa -- the disease of love. Lena can't wait for her procedure, scheduled in a few months. Then she'll be free from memories of her beloved mother who killed herself 12 years ago after a botched procedure to "cure" her. Then, Lena meets Alex and it's not long before she's seriously and wonderfully "infected." He's from beyond the electrified fence and fakes the mark of the cured so he can attend school and stage small anonymous acts of resistance. As Alex opens Lena's eyes to what the cure really represents, Lena struggles with what to do. All the while her procedure date draws nearer.
Is it any good?
Teen readers will be drawn into this book's exciting premise and its mix of romance, high drama and danger. If citizens get "infected" by love, government regulators drag them, kicking and screaming to poke at their brains until they don't care about anyone anymore. Yikes. If readers stay focused on Lena and Alex's star-crossed romance, they are in for a great ride. Those who try to follow the whys and hows of the making of this society will find the unanswered questions keep on coming. They will wish the author had taken more time to flush-out her dystopian backdrop.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the resurgence in popularity of dystopian novels. Like Twilight launched many more vampire novels, the popularity of The Hunger Games, for example, gave this genre new life. Why do teens connect with these books? What do you think the next book fad will be?
It's hard to find a fault in Alex, Lena's love interest. Why do you think the main male character in romantic novels is often drawn this way? Do characters like Alex shape teen's expectations about romance in any way?
For kids who love fantasy and romance
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