Hundred Percent

Book review by
Darienne Stewart, Common Sense Media
Hundred Percent Book Poster Image
Honest, heartrending look at tween friendships, identity.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows how different kids mature at different ages and different rates. Shines a light on expectations, stereotypes, and mixed messages when it comes to traditional gender roles.

Positive Messages

Despite all the peer pressure and confusion of puberty, this time is an opportunity for reinvention -- to try new things, explore who you are, and make mistakes as you figure out who you want to be. It's difficult for everyone, no matter how confident some kids appear to be. Maintaining long-term friendships can require courage and sacrifice. Relationships that require you to be inauthentic aren't worth it.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tink is thoughtful and attentive to others. She doesn't always make good choices, but she's honest with herself. She leads classmates in showering generosity on a child who endured difficulty at home. She steps into a leadership position and learns how to use her voice. Parents aren't perfect, but they're engaged and supportive of their kids and their friends.

Violence

Child gets shoved and loses a tooth; another narrowly escapes injury in a vandalized bathroom. Boy recounts weekend spent hiding from father angry over gambling loss. Girl threatens to punch another.

Sex

Strong focus on puberty and varying ways children experience and react to it. Kids compare changing bodies and talk about developing a figure. Lots of flirting and discussion of dating. Girls are subjected to sexualized attention from classmates, including whistles and barks, and a boy tells a girl he draws naked pictures and she'd look good naked. Plentiful gossip about peers being "slutty" and attention to adults' romantic lives. Grade school behavior such as rolling in the grass together and gathering for a party takes on a mature connotation. Some wrestling with differences between sexy vs. rude or creepy.

Language

Insulting and crude language including "hellish," "horny skank," "dumba--," "balls," "jacka--," "a--holes," "dork," "jerk," "retarded," "boner," "slut," "turd," and "bazoomas."

Consumerism

Pop culture and snack food references.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Reference to "bums" drinking in public.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Hundred Percent beautifully captures the emotional confusion of beginning puberty. This book makes clear that children mature at different rates and different ages, and its sometimes raw language and themes may not be appropriate for all tweens. Karen Romano Young's sixth-graders pay extensive attention to sexual development, from physical changes (developing "bazoomas" and a figure) to flirting (eagerness for kisses, suggestive dancing) and harassment (insults, calling girls "sluts," creepy attention). There are gorgeous moments of compassion and community alongside casual cruelty, including physical violence, exclusion, and taunting. Some of the mature material strains credulity -- for example, teachers allow students to perform a skit to the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Women" (which includes references to sex and drinking). While the publisher suggests this book is for age 8 and up, we think the language and sexual content make it a better fit for kids 11 and older.

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What's the story?

In HUNDRED PERCENT, Christine "Tink" Gouda is 11 going on 12, but she feels like she's entering a strange new world. Her best friend, Jackie, is intent on being in the cool-kid circle: the sixth-graders who flirt and make racy jokes and taunts even they don't fully understand. Tink, hovering at the circle's edge, is unmoored by the changes in their friendship, her classmates, her changing body, and herself. Some of her impulsive actions and emotional reactions take her by surprise, and right and wrong aren't always clear. She thinks her nickname is childish, but Jackie's rebranding her as "Chris" doesn't feel right either. Tink wants nothing more than to feel like herself again, but she's unsure of who she is anymore -- or who she might become.

Is it any good?

Rather than mining puberty for easy, awkward laughs, this introspective novel explores the shifting emotional terrain, from thrilling new highs to plunging depths of self-doubt and uncertainty. In Hundred Percent, Karen Romano Young sensitively portrays the way so many tweens run, stumble, and drag their feet toward adulthood, trying on new personas (and new friends) as they go. Young has keen insight into the confusion of this age, when some kids appear to be growing up so fast while others seem immature -- "the ready and the unready."

The story is distractingly adrift in time: While kids listen to music on iPods, the cultural references -- the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, MAD magazine, Pat Sajak, the Mouseketeers, vinyl records, some of the fashion -- are completely out of place. But Young's understanding of what it's like to endure the crucible of puberty is timeless.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about body image and self-perception in Hundred Percent. How do other people's views shape how Tink and Jackie see themselves? Where do you think those expectations come from? (Parents may want to read our report on youth, media, and body image.)

  • Why is Tink more compassionate toward Bushwack than some of her other classmates?

  • Tink is uncomfortable trick-or-treating with Jackie, thinking their costumes are inappropriate. How do you feel about sexy Halloween costumes?

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