A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that there's a mystery at the center of this book: Hen's sister Sarah has been missing for a year, and she's a fugitive when she returns (though her crime is not a violent one). Other than that, there's nothing too alarming here: Hen's neighbor Emma shows up with beer at his band practices (and gets very drunk). One dad offers Hen a hit of marijuana, while another is known to drink heavily. Some innocent kissing, some light swearing. But at the end there's a gentle message about supporting and protecting the people you love -- even when you're not so sure of what they're up to.
What's the story?
As in The After Life, the author creates a strange cast of characters and mysterious circumstances to create a compelling and moving book. Hen's girlfriend breaks up with him and kicks him out of the band on the same night that his sister reappears after being missing for a year. Now Hen's determined to play bass well enough to get back into Petra's band AND solve the mystery of why Sarah and her college friends mysteriously disappeared. But something a little more normal is going on in his life, too: He realizes that he's in love with the girl next door.
Is it any good?
The author has put together a winning combination of mystery, romance, and coming-of-age novel. Plus, it's downright funny at times (like when Petra, the self-centered lead singer of Hen's band, names their group PETRA). Readers may not know how seriously to take Hen's dreams of rock stardom, but they'll definitely find themselves cheering when Hen and Emma FINALLY admit their feelings for each other. One of the things that's really great about this book is that the characters are all weird and annoying at times, yet they really look out for one another (like Emma, who admits she tried to "sabotage" Hen's gig in an attempt to protect him from getting hurt).
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the mystery at the center of this book. Hen knows his sister is a fugitive, but she will not tell him what her crime is. What would you do if you were in that situation? Would you let her tell her story when she's ready, or search out clues, like Hen does? Do you think there's ever a good reason to be an outlaw?
Hen wants to be a famous rock star (even though he can barely play bass). Do you, or any of your friends, have dreams of stardom? What is it that is so appealing about the idea of being a celebrity? How has this very common fantasy influenced popular media (think: reality shows)? Do you think our culture is too obsessed with fame?
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