A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Gives a behind-the-scenes look at the life of fictional social media influencers. Shows the perils of fame.
Shows how important it is to find a positive self- image somewhere other than on social media. That success on social media (even with 1 million-plus followers) doesn't mean your life will be a happy one.
Positive Role Models
This is not a novel filled with characters who stand out as roles models. But Frankie, the most successful of the 10, is the most reflective about how her life has changed (and not always for the better) since she started on social media. Her mom became her manager and as she became more and more successful, her mother's control over her life and money became so destructive that she became emancipated at age 16. Frankie wants to leave social media behind before it leaves her, but that means confronting her fear of failure. Manny would like to start his life over as a blank slate and not have it defined by what he did before he was 20. On the island, he comes to the sobering realization that the drugs he'd supplied just to "help out" friends have made him an actual drug dealer. As more and more characters are killed, those remaining have to summon real courage and perseverance to simply make it through their next hour on the island.
Robby and Justice are Black, Manny is Latino. Xander is Asian, others are presumed White. Xander had a secret gay relationship in high school. Chelsea is trans, and Frankie's manager is gay.
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Violence & Scariness
People die in a fire and an auto accident and by drug overdoses. They're poisoned, bludgeoned with a scuba tank, shot by a spear gun and a pistol, fall off a cliff, are pushed down stairs, and attacked by bees. Some murders are described in detail -- excrement and vomit cover the walls of a room, and a head explodes from a violent attack.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One girl remembers "furious" kissing that ended up in a bedroom closet at a party where sex is assumed but not written about. There's an almost-kiss and a mention of two boys hooking up.
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"S--t," "crap," and lots of uses of "f--k." When Xander started posting dance to videos to TikTok, his football teammates told him it was "so gay."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Manny deals drugs, but always thought of himself as someone one who "just helped people out." He believes the only reason he was on the invitation list for Unknown Island was to bring Ecstasy and make sure that everyone had a good time. Three characters take Ecstasy and readers and parents could find their experience with the drug portrayed in a more positive than negative light. There are drug overdoses and characters who have a history of drug use. Underage characters drink champagne, and a character takes Ambien.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Kate Williams' Never Coming Home is an intense reimagining of the Agatha Christie classic, And Then There Were None. Ten diverse young social media influencers have been invited to be the first guests at Unknown Island, a new luxury resort. But when they arrive, they find the accommodations are anything but luxurious, there's no Wifi or cell service, and no staff. They've been left alone on the island. They soon discover the real reason they've been invited and it's not because of their popularity on social media. They've been chosen because each of them is a murderer and there is now a price to be paid. In the first six hours, four of the 10 are found dead. Murders that must have been carried out by a stranger hiding on the island or, more likely, one of the their own. People are poisoned, bludgeoned with a scuba tank, shot by a spear gun, and attacked by bees. The aftermath of some murders are described in detail, including a head that's exploded from a violent attack. One of the influencers is a drug dealer and three characters' experience taking Ecstasy is described in detail. Characters regularly use profanity, primarily "f--k." There's some kissing, and a gay character remembers hooking up for the first time.
Is It Any Good?
This fast-paced page-turner of a thriller is filled with flawed characters who offer serious life lessons for readers about the perils of fame and the dangers of keeping secrets. Never Coming Home gives readers and parents an excellent opportunity to discuss the power of personalities on social media. The storyline shows teens they should be cautious about believing the life a social media influencer presents on their platform is an honest reflection of who they really are and that the number of followers on a platform never guarantees a happy or successful life.
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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.
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