Dolores: Seven Stories About Her

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
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Engrossing stories contain mature themes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The author's a good writer who excels at writing witty dialogue between smart kids. Kids and parents can probe the book's messages -- or check out our "Families Can Talk About" section for some other discussion ideas.

Positive Messages

There are gentle messages in many of these coming-of-age stories about how to deal with bullies, dealing with parents, etc.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Dolores is a wonderful girl who doesn't fall for mean gossip -- and even takes down a would-be rapist. She may be a bit too good to be true, but readers will admire her strength, and her ability to be just fine by herself.


Dolores is kidnapped -- twice. One of her kidnappers tries to rape her, but she punches him. Her brother tackles two would-be kidnappers.


References to sexual interest, breast augmentation, and lesbians. Dolores shares a sweet kiss with an admirer.


A few off-color words.


Wal-Mart figures prominently in one story, and there are references to popular music throughout.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Pot smoking in one scene, not by major characters.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this is a series of coming-of-age stories about a likable and strong girl. Each vignette raises an issue, such as dealing with strangers or handling rumors. There is some violence: Dolores is kidnapped -- twice. One time, a kidnapper tries to rape her, but she punches him. But readers will admire her inner strength that shines through in every situation.

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What's the story?

Dolores's life is told in seven vignettes as she grows up from ages seven to 16. Some of these stories have intense themes: At age seven, she is saved from would-be kidnappers who try to abduct her from a Wal-Mart store. And in the end she foils an attempted rape. Other stories involve a mean, popular girl who fails to make her miserable by spreading false rumors and a jerk at a party who has bragged that he will score with her that night.

Is it any good?

Two-time Newbery Honor author Bruce Brooks has written something similar -- a life told in a few vignettes -- far better in the breathtaking What Hearts, which got him one of his Newberys. Here the setups are too obviously designed to show us how wonderful the far-too-wonderful Dolores is, and everything, except for her relationship with her mother (and even there she gets off the best zingers), works out too neatly. She even has a heart-to-heart with a surprisingly introspective bully. Still, even in his weaker moments Brooks can write better than most authors at their best. The story is engaging and engrossing, peppered with the witty dialogue of smart kids, something in which the author specializes.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about short story collections. What do you like about them? What makes them more fun than other books -- and more difficult than other books?

  • The book begins and ends with a kidnapping. Why do you think the author chose to construct his book that way? What is the difference in how the two situations work out?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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