First of all, this book does contain non-explicit descriptions of a sexual relationship between two young (14 and 15) first cousins. Although this is described as incestuous in the main review, it is, in fact, legal in many states (including Georgia) and marriage between first cousins is common throughout history. The sexual affair is not dealt with in a tawdry way, and I did not feel that it was graphic or glamorized. The ramifications of the affair are dealt with, and the two characters are irrevocably bonded - with a fidelity that transcends war, distance, time, and trauma.
The novel does contain some graphic descriptions a fictional future war that are all the more horrifying because the reader feels that the events in the novel could potentially happen. The fact that the violence is realistic and plausible could give more sensitive readers feelings of fear or anxiety and parents/educators should be sensitive to the potential.
The book handles many difficult issues in a way that I felt gave a very positive message.
The main character, Daisy, responds with courage and strength in the face of horrific circumstances after a series of terrorist attacks leave the country in chaos. In the absence of adults, she protects her young cousin and survives by living off the countryside and learning map/navigational skills. She is anorexic at the start of the novel, but realizes the selfishness of intentionally starving after living through a genuine crisis.
Daisy and her cousin Edmund have an intense emotional and sexual affair in the face of what could be the end of the world. As mentioned previously, they are faithful to one another through the most horrible events, distance, and trauma - Daisy stays with Edmund as an adult even after he is horribly scarred by the war. The lack of consequences (pregnancy) is explained by Daisy's ammenorrea. While some may feel that any sexual behavior by teens is inappropriate, I felt that this novel dealt with sexuality in a way that was fair and not-glamorized.
There is one scene where the girls accidently eat bad mushrooms while foraging for food to survive and hallucinate. The depiction of the night is horrific and it is a clearly negative view of a drug experience.
Positive messages in the novel surround themes of fidelity, self-sacrifice, survival, and self-reliance. There is a strong message of self-sustainable life choices at the end. Proponents of am ecological, back-to-the earth, sustainable farming/living vision will find much to admire.
I would not hesitate to recommend this novel to high school students and would not have any qualms about my children reading it in 9th-12th grade.