Do-Over

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Do-Over Book Poster Image
Great idea, weak execution for upper elementary.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Elsa tries out cheating, gossiping, cutting off unpopular friends, playing mean pranks, etc. In the end, she learns better.

Violence
Sex

A kiss.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that there's not much to be concerned about other than all the manipulative behavior the heroine tries out before learning better.

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What's the story?

Elsa, whose mother has recently died, moves with her father to live with her grandmother, and must start in her new seventh grade in the middle of the year. An outcast of the in-group in her old school, she quickly finds herself heading for that status again in her new school.

Then she is visited by the ghost of her mother, who gives her a locket with a special power -- with it she can do the last ten seconds over whenever she wants. Using it she tries out several methods for making herself popular, but finds it's harder than she thinks.

Is it any good?

This seems like such an intriguing idea: a nice kid learning to navigate the treacherous waters of middle school by getting to fix her mistakes repeatedly until she gets it right. But the main character is supposed to become more appealing, not less so. Given this wonderful power, and advice from her ghost-mom to be true to herself, Elsa immediately starts becoming what she supposedly hates.

She cheats to prove she's smart, then pretends to be stupid, cuts off her unpopular friend, sucks up to the mean popular girl, passes along vicious gossip with barely a qualm, and plays nasty pranks for revenge. Of course this all backfires and she learns better, and then her problems magically disappear. But it seems like she always had a popularity princess inside her just waiting to get out. This book is enjoyable enough, but with this premise it could have been much more.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about real-world solutions to Elsa's problems. How can one get along in the difficult world of middle school? What are the advantages and disadvantages of popularity? Of fitting in? Of being oneself?

Book details

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