A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dying to Know You has some mature moments: For example, central character Karl admits that his girlfriend, Fiorella, broke up with him after he tried to "make her" get pregnant. After the break-up, he considers suicide. There's also a beating that leaves both Karl and an older man in the hospital. But in the end, this is a moving story about an unlikely friendship and finding new possibilities within yourself. The author truly cares for troubled Karl and is able to mentor the teen when he decides to pursue art, helping him realize that he must "go on making... You can't let the philistines destroy you."
What's the story?
In DYING TO KNOW YOU, a teen named Karl visits an elderly author and asks him for a favor: Karl's girlfriend, the literary Fiorella, wants Karl to answer a long list of personal questions, but Karl is hesitant because his dyslexia makes it hard for him to write down what he wants to. Fiorella is a fan of the author's work, and Karl wants his help keeping the romance alive. The author agrees, and, while working on the project, gets to know the broken boy. An unlikely friendship between the boy and the author gives both of them a reason to keep living.
Is it any good?
The plot does ramble some: What starts off as a Cyrano de Bergerac-type story soon spins to being a tale about depression and a potential suicide. Then the focus changes again to being about Karl's discovery of his artistic drive and the author's insistence that Karl must "go on making" even after his first sculpture is destroyed.
Readers looking for a romanctic read might be disappointed -- the female characters, including Fiorella, are all thinly drawn -- but those willing to ramble along with the story will find a compelling and unusual friendship at the heart of this novel by Printz Award-winning author Aidan Chambers. Karl and the author are on opposite ends of the age spectrum, but their friendship provides each with both love and inspiration.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Dying to Know You's more mature content. It deals fairly explicitly with sex; there's also a beating and a near suicide attempt. Is there a limit to what sort of material should be in young adult books, or are teens ready for these kinds of serious issues? Who should decide what you're ready to read?
Talk about the unusual narrator here: an elderly man. Can you think of other media titles targeted at young people that have elderly narrators? Why did the author pick the famous old writer to narrate this story? Why does he go nameless throughout the book?
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