A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that In Search of Us is a coming-of-age story with frank but not graphic sexuality that makes it best for teens and up. Masturbation, penetration, mutual masturbation, oral sex, and more are implied or described vaguely. A teen remembers being forced as a child to watch a man "jerk off." Teen pregnancy is an important element. A police shooting that kills a teen mentions the dead body. An adult attacks a teen, trying to smother her with a pillow and slashing with a knife. Lots of drinking by a secondary, alcoholic character who's very hostile when drunk. Teens occasionally sneak beer and wine or hard alcohol at a party; consequences are related to the plot and hangover symptoms are mentioned. Teens use marijuana a few times. Race is a strong undercurrent but not a defining characteristic of any of the characters. There's a police shooting of an innocent African American, and biracial Angie wishes she'd grown up more connected to the African American side of her family. How the past affects us is a prominent theme, and it's a good opportunity to talk about how your own family's experiences affect where you live, who you are, and what you make of your life.
What's the story?
IN SEARCH OF US weaves back and forth in time between 17-year-old Marilyn and, years later, her daughter, Angie, who's now 17 herself. Back in the '90s, Marilyn was chafing against her mother's hopes for Marilyn's acting career, wanting nothing more than to get into college somewhere far away. As Marilyn starts to fall for James, the cute guy in the downstairs apartment, she and James start to change and reshape each other's hopes and dreams, until tragedy takes them all away. In the present, Marilyn's daughter, Angie, is haunted by all she doesn't know about her mother's sorrow. On a hunch, Angie takes off to Los Angeles, hoping to track down an uncle who can give her some answers and who may even be the key to meeting the father she thought was long dead.
Is it any good?
This compelling story has the depth to elevate it above just another fraught mother-daughter YA novel. As Angie goes In Search of Us, author Ava Dellaira's writing draws you into the characters' lives with intriguing glimpses of the past and keeps the pages turning as it moves toward the ending you dread but can't turn away from. Teens will easily relate to both characters as they learn how much the past affects us in the present, as well as how to turn wounds that won't heal into a force that drives you to the life you were meant to have.
Some readers without a pretty good working knowledge of '90s music may find the frequent references to artists and songs at worst an intrusion and at best unhelpful. But it may inspire some readers to give a listen to some of it, too. The frank sexuality and mature themes, such as issues related to race, make it best for high schoolers and up. And it's a worthwhile read for those who like a healthy dose of family secrets in their romantic coming-of-age stories.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the sexy stuff in In Search of Us. Does it seem realistic? The publisher recommends the book for ages 12 and up. Do you agree with that age range? How much is OK in books for teens and tweens?
Do the brand-name products, songs, and music artists add realism or help you understand the characters and time periods? Or is it too much? How much are teens really obsessed with name brands?
How important is the racial difference between James and Marilyn? How might the story change if they were the same race? What effect does the difference have on Angie?
- Author: Ava Dellaira
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
- Publication date: March 6, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 416
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.