A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
One of the classics of peer pressure and its consequences, this book is almost a text-book case study of the harm that happens when people follow along against their better judgment.
This is a book where negative behaviors create positive messages. The main characters submit to peer pressure, commit a crime, and suffer the consequences. It's a strong way to show the downside of peer pressure.
Violence & Scariness
Much implied but not described. The villain ties up a main character and sets fire to her house.
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Infrequent, but in tense moments, some cursing.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The other kids accept that the villain buys beer and smokes pot.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book examines what harm can happen when kids submit to peer pressure. They commit a crime and suffer the consequences. The book builds psychologically and kids will feel increasingly challenged as the action spins out of control. This is a powerful look at the rule of the mob and the importance (and difficulty) of following your own inner sense of right and wrong.
Is It Any Good?
This tensely engaging book has been criticized for its violence, though it directly describes almost none; instead, we see the results of violence. We see how Mrs. Griffin suffers when her husband disappears, and how the kids feel a trap slowly closing around them. Lois Duncan skillfully builds the suspense until Mark's disguised sickness explodes.
We care about these kids as we watch them make decisions that will ruin their lives. Duncan forces all her characters to take the consequences of their actions. That realism lifts the book above the pulp-fiction genre and has kept it among the most popular young-adult novels for more than 20 years. The lessons it teaches about teenage peer pressure has kept it on many required reading lists -- this is one the kids can enjoy.
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