A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers will be introduced to more than a dozen poets, both well known (Emily Dickinson, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton), not so well known (John Berryman), and "queer" (Richard Siken and Danez Smith).
Words -- the ones you write and ones written by others -- can both heal and enlighten.
Positive Role Models
Avery has not had an easy time of it. Both his mother and grandfather are alcoholics, and that's often made his life chaotic and unpredictable. While he does turn to alcohol on a couple of occasions, he decides books and his own writing will help him get his life on the right track.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Avery and Luca exchange a few kisses, have a first (for both of them) sexual encounter -- more alluded to than described in detail. A woman orders a donut that has a pretzel stick penis.
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A few uses of "s--t," "f---ing," and "ass."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Much of the storyline revolves around emotional fallout created by characters who are alcoholics -- both in recovery and in denial. Avery's mother drives drunk. Avery gets drunk on vodka, and poets smoke cigarettes in his dreams.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Will Walton's I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain is told in stream-of-consciousness prose and poetry by 16-year-old Avery, who's just begun his summer vacation. A lot is happening in Avery's life: His mother starts drinking again and goes back to rehab, his grandfather is in denial about his own alcoholism, a beloved family member dies, and Avery and his best friend, Luca, are planning on losing their virginity to each other. Inspired by a stack of poetry books given to him by a teacher for summer reading, Avery tries to make sense of the upheavals in his life by writing and journaling. Famous poets even show up in his dreams to try to help guide him through the rough times. One gay sexual experience is described in several short, non-explicit sentences, and profanity is limited to a few uses of "s--t," "f---ing," and "ass." While potential readers might initially be intimidated by a novel written in such an unfamiliar format and filled with poetry and poets, those willing to give it a try will find it a relatable, rewarding, and exciting literary adventure.
Is It Any Good?
Unlike anything most teens have ever read, this sometimes challenging blend of prose and poetry is ultimately a relatable story of grief, addiction, and love. While I Felt a Funeral, in My Brain may initially get a "Poetry? No way" reaction from some teens, it won't take long before they find themselves letting go of any doubts or fears about reading this unconventional novel and being captivated by Avery's story.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.