What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there are sexual references and fantasies here, and the main character, a very troubled teen, has sex (not described). There are accidents in which people are killed, and moderate slurs are used. But teens who are mature enough for the content and the ideas here will enjoy reading this compelling book and having debates about the idea of fate: Are our lives governed by fate? Or do we have free will? If we're worried about the bad stuff that could happen to us at any moment, do we then miss out on all the good stuff in our lives? Teen fans may also be inspired to read the author's other breathtaking book, How I Live Now.
What's the story?
On the day David Case just barely saves his toddler brother Charlie from tumbling out of a high window his world is radically changed. He realizes that nothing is certain, that a single second can destroy a family. He "became mired in what if." He decides that he is doomed, that Fate is out to get him. He's right. Fate, as narrator, describes how David tries to escape him: changing his name to Justin and altering his clothes and activities and personality, all in the forlorn hope of escaping Fate's notice. Though his old friend Peter, new friend Agnes, and even Charlie are all concerned about him and try to help, he sinks deeper into depression, drops out of school, and leaves home. But Fate is watching, and waiting.
Is it any good?
This heartfelt, witty, multilayered, thoughtful, clever, and above all, compassionate sophomore effort from the author of How I Live Now is dazzling. Every character, major and minor (well, except for the adults) is a brilliant and deeply appealing creation. There's Charlie, one of the most fascinating 1-year-olds in literature, whose almost nonexistent vocabulary hides deep thought, compassion, and understanding that is, somehow, still childlike. And Peter, whose serenity and grace David both loves and envies.
And then there's David/Justin, whose yearning, need, and misery flirt with, but never cross over into, tedium; who can't see the love that surrounds him; and who, though so perceptive, understands less than everyone else. Even Fate has a sort of edgy compassion for his victims here. Using Fate as a narrator -- which could easily have been gimmicky -- instead comes across as absolutely integral, and it's done with clever subtlety.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the author's choice to use Fate as a narrator. The Book Thief was narrated by Death and The Lovely Bones by a dead child....can you think of other books with unusual narrators? Why do you think the author made the choice in this book?
This book is written by the same author who wrote How I Live Now. Both books, while well-reviewed, feature some intense material. What makes a book appropriate for a young adult audience, instead of for an adult one? The publisher recommended this book for 14 and up (as did Common Sense Media) -- do you think that's the right age?