Parents' Guide to

Gem & Dixie

By Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Compelling story of teen sisters neglected by their parents.

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This story of neglected teen sisters trying to cope with an unstable upbringing is both sobering and sweet. Gem, the older sister in Gem & Dixie, is a character who has an authentic, engaging voice. Watching her come to terms with her family's dynamics is heartbreaking, and you can't help rooting for her. The wrap up to her story feels rushed, though. It would have been nice to get more detail on her progress. Dixie seems like the clichéd popular mean girl, but her character is revealed to be much sadder and complex than that. Author Sara Zarr tells the story in an emotional and realistic way, showing how victims of neglect are hard to identify and help, as well as what that kind of instability at home does to a kid emotionally.

The sibling relationship is fascinating. Zarr explores how two kids raised in the same circumstance can manifest their upbringing in opposite ways. The relationship between Gem and Dixie illustrates the way many of us define ourselves in comparison to our siblings and by our roles within our families. The characters and actions feel realistic, except the few times when characters lay out the author's messages in ways that seem forced. Those minor points aside, this is a compelling read and will give readers good food for thought.

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