Scenes of mass murder, mind control, war preparation, and violent personal assaults in every chapter. Armies of 16-year olds toting machine guns, multiple murders by shooting, stabbing. Sadism. Suicide. Familial abandonment.
Romanticized descriptions of extended hallucinatory episodes after drug injections.
Graphic descriptions of shootings including the protagonist witnessing the murder of first her mother, then her father. Descriptions of the heft and feel of a gun in her hands, multiple descriptions of the sound and click of chambering a bullet in the gun, the protagonist shooting other teens and other random people. Stupid gunplay where one teen shoots a muffin placed on another teen's head - the excuse in the book of "it's just a pellet gun, so we can't get hurt" is absolutely wrong and quite dangerous when transmitted to young people. Young people lose eyes to injuries from pellet guns every year.
One episode described a teen throwing knives at another, as part of training.
This book contains a great deal of glorified, stylized, romanticized and unnecessary violence. Yes, it's fiction, but this book is absolutely not appropriate for children under 15.
I don't understand how anyone could think that this book is ok for a 13 year old child.
There are a few positives. The protagonist is a young girl who develops her own sense of self, and cultivates inner strength through practice. (thoroughly Violent practice). Also, she develops a healthy relationship with a teen boy that is mutually respectful and supportive. (though the teen boy is her army trainer). Both are seen to be strong, smart, and resourceful, and they learn from each other. Also, the protagonist must confront many ambiguous and confusing relationship situations, and navigates successfully through all of those. She has body image issues, and gets past them. She learns to appreciate herself, flaws and all. All of these are positive aspects.
These positives do not redeem the book. Aside from the violence, there are other glaring problems. There are no positive adult role models. Every adult is evil, powerless, ignorant, or irrational. The girl's own mother is daring, but then voluntarily (and inexplicably) endures a senseless death which is described graphically. Every other adult is deeply flawed. The girl has a poor relationship with her father - there is virtually no feeling toward him. There is no positive relationship depicted between any child and his or her father, at all. The only other major father figure in the book is a child-abuser.
In my opinion, the wanton violence and cavalier treatment of drug use, hallucinations, and alcohol, combined with a lack of quality dramatic writing, mean there are better choices for kids. This is pop junk fiction. It's the literary equivalent of pop tarts: kids love it, and it's absolutely not good for them.
My high-school English teacher, a Vietnam vet and objector, would have thrown up on this book and its images of militarized youth and gratuitous violence.