A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book looks at an unexpected friendship between two troubled boys. One boy contemplates suicide and the other abuses drugs, and may have been abused. This book features a lot of mature language -- including the s and f word -- and raises plenty of issues you may want discuss with your teen: suicide, drugs, homelessness, and abuse.
What's the story?
Troy, a 300-pound high-schooler, is contemplating jumping in front of a train when he meets Curt, an emaciated, homeless, guitar-playing, drop-out legend in his school. Before he knows what has hit him, Troy has agreed to be the drummer in a new band Curt is forming, despite not playing drums. With a faith in him that Troy doesn't understand, Curt is Troy's nightmare and dream come true, often at the same time. Though Troy's father suspects that Curt's a junkie, he ultimately supports Troy's efforts to learn the drums, the first thing he has seemed interested in since his mother died. But getting involved in Curt's world of punk rock and street life is more than any of them bargained for.
Is it any good?
Though told by Troy, this is really the story of Curt, surely the most charming homeless teen junkie guitar-god in literature. Devious, brilliantly talented, weirdly wise, slightly insane, leading a nightmare life, a tornado of energy and need, Curt is an original, and horrifyingly delightful, character. Though depressed and at times self-pitying, Troy has a sense of humor. He sees everything in his life through the lens of his weight, but doesn't even consider doing anything about it: He was skinny before his mother died, now he's fat, and that's it. Despite the seemingly loud and crazed storyline, first-time novelist K. Going is ingeniously subtle. Troy's father is a rigid stereotype in Troy's eyes, and for a while the reader's eyes, too. But from Curt's point of view, and in the midst of crisis, his faults morph into virtues without too much gong-beating from the author. Young readers may have cause to reassess their opinions of their own parents.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about some of the serious issues raised by this book. Do you know any teens who are like Curt or Troy? What can teens gain by reading about kids who are suicidal or homeless -- even if those aren't things they will ever experience?
What did you think of the mature language in this book? Does it add or detract from the story?
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