My Chemical Mountain
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that My Chemical Mountain glorifies a group of boys' fight against pollution, as well as their daredevil antics in a poisoned landfill. Treating it as their backyard playground, Jason and his two friends hike, bike, and even swim in the hellhole. The descriptions, in lush detail, make the reader's skin crawl in a way some teens can't get enough of. ("Charlie showed up with two dead squirrel babies, joined at the head.") Jason's girlfriend plays a minor role in this adventure, which involves wider questions of community will. The absence of established safeguards against pollution -- the EPA is barely mentioned -- diminish the story's realism. The pacing is fast and the descriptions more gross than violent. One character dies of gas inhalation, and a drunken husband punches his wife.
What's the story?
Eighth-grader Jason and and two buddies, Charlie the jock and geeky Cornpup, get their kicks motorbiking and scavenging in a poisonous landfill near Lake Erie. Jason has vowed to avenge his father's death at the hand of Mareno Chem, which is hiding its illegal waste dumping. The pollution has given Cornpup a skin condition so severe he needs an operation. To raise money, Jason leads a clandestine tour of the landfill, where he and Cornpup catch Mareno Chem red-handed.
Is it any good?
The pacing is fast and the David-vs.-Goliath tone of the story gives the boys a heroic quality, but the lack of grown-up opposition to the illegal dumping of toxic waste makes it seem unrealistic. On another level, the story takes on the issue of a community standing up to a company that provides good jobs. The novel combines adventure and social activism in a feel-good yarn that's sometimes hard to believe.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about the difference between revenge and justice. Why is revenge a common motivation in stories?
Jason and his friends discuss whether working class is the same as poor. Is it?
Where's the most polluted place you could walk to? Drive to? Is anything being done to clean it up?