Nightshade, Book 1

Common Sense Media says

Gripping werewolf thriller explores lust more than love.

Age(i)

2
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Quality(i)

 
ALA Best and Notable BooksCaldecott Medal and HonorsCommon Sense Media AwardCoretta Scott King Medal and HonorsNewbery Medal and Honors

What parents need to know

Educational value

Because part of the story takes place in a philosophy class, teens will be exposed to very abbreviated discussions about a few philosophers' beliefs. Like most paranormal books, the author explores legends about werewolves and witches. There is also an ongoing debate about freedom of self vs. duty to the pack, as the central character must decide between her heart and a forbidden romance and her obligation to everyone she loves and protects.

Positive messages

There is a strong message about individualism, freedom, and the importance of being able to make your own decisions -- especially when it comes to love. 

Positive role models

Calla is a strong but at times morally ambiguous character. She lies when it suits her, not just to protect others, and it's sometimes difficult to discern whether she's being selfish or selfless with her actions, especially during the cliffhanger ending, when it's clear she's chosen to save one life at the possible/probable expense of several others. Shay and Ren are both brave, strong, and really do love Calla, even though they're at odds with each other. All of the young Guardians in Calla and Ren's pack are courageous and protective of each other, but they also carry out orders without necessarily questioning them.

Violence

Werewolves get involved in some bloody skirmishes with other paranormals, but humans are almost always left alone, except for one who is cursed with seizures and left unconscious for disobeying a rule. Characters are attacked, kidnapped, and nearly killed on a fairly regular basis. A few people die (secondary characters we don't know well), and the violence inherent in being a wolf is discussed. Most of the time there are no weapons used, since the characters can seamlessly shift into wolves. Since the fighting takes place between paranormal creatures, it does not seem realistic.

Sex

Lots of hormones in this story, with references to making out and romantic conquests. Calla lusts after two handsome suitors and ends up kissing them both on more than one occasion. Calla describes the difference between all-consuming physical attraction and romantic desire. There are discussions of virginity and the "duties of a mate," since Calla is betrothed to another character. Some double-standards are explored: The alpha male is allowed to have several flings (and presumably sex), but Calla is supposed to remain untouched until her mating ceremony. A grown alpha male makes suggestive advances to a married female. A character is known to be a womanizer who prefers very young girlfriends. A few characters are gay, and it's mentioned that the paranormal community can be homophobic.

Language

The occasional PG-13 word: "bitch," "s--t," "hell," "stupid," "ass." 

Consumerism

Calla regularly mentions the designer brands the Keepers wear, such as Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, and the exotic cars they drive. Product labels are mostly used to describe only the Keepers and just to highlight how posh they are compared with the Guardians. 

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

There is some underage drinking at a nightclub. A couple of adults smoke cigarettes.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this paranormal romance-adventure is heavy on violent action sequences and even heavier on teen hormones. The Guardian werewolves are involved in bloody skirmishes with other paranormal creatures, and there is a slight body count. Sexuality, love, and marriage are all discussed at length, because the protagonist is betrothed. There is some passionate kissing and touching, as well as the standard language you'd expect in a PG-13 movie ("s--t," "ass," "bitch," etc.). The book follows a strong, independent but emotionally fragile female protagonist who must choose between two lives and two suitors that represent different values.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

Calla Tor is no ordinary 17-year-old blond beauty; she's an alpha Guardian -- an elite werewolf who is part of a pack that protects the mysterious and powerful Keepers (witches) living in Colorado. One day Calla breaks a Guardian vow by shifting forms to save the life of a human guy. She reveals herself to him, thinking she'll never see him again, but when she returns to her elite private school, he's the new guy in town. His name is Shay, and he's only got eyes for Calla, but she's spoken for in an arranged betrothal to Ren, the sexy alpha male of a rival pack. Ren and Calla are destined to be "mated" on Halloween, unifying the two packs, but in the two months leading up to her marriage ceremony, Calla realizes Shay isn't just a normal human, and her feelings for him are too complicated to ignore. Calla must choose between her desire for Shay and the unknown and her relationship with Ren and their devoted pack.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Andrea Cremer's first novel is as fast-paced and emotionally driven as you'd expect in a best-selling novel aimed at teen girls. Like many comparable heroines, Calla is a powerful protagonist who is nonetheless insecure when it comes to romance. She's inexperienced and unbelievably drawn to both her sexy alpha-male fiancé, Ren, and the sweet and passionate mystery guy, Shay. But by focusing so much on Calla's stomach-flipping feelings of infatuation, lust and (could it be?) first love, Cremer creates a heroine who somehow lacks the substance and spunk of Hex Hall's Sophie, the Mortal Instruments' Clary or Paranormalcy's Evie. 

Calla isn't particularly clever or funny or smart. She is, however, a fierce fighter, doting sister, and protective friend. Sadly, when it comes to her singular interest in Shay, she loses some of her appeal. The two guys each have their merits, and the story is obviously going to divide fans into Team Ren or Team Shay, but it's fairly obvious (at least in this first book) whom the author means Calla to be with ultimately. The cliffhanger ending may frustrate some readers, but luckily the sequel is already available, so you can immediately move on to Wolfsbane.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the violence depicted in the book. Is reading about paranormal violence less disturbing than something more realistic, like gun violence or gang altercations?

  • Why are love triangles so prevalent in young adult literature? Which of Calla's love interests do you prefer and why? Do you think she makes the right choice?

  • How does the werewolf lore in the story compare with the werewolves in comparable teen books? Do you think there is too much backstory about the wolves and the witches? Do you understand all the mythology and philosophy discussed among the characters?

Book details

This review of Nightshade, Book 1 was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging, great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging, good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging, good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging, okay learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byFelwinn October 13, 2011
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Mature But Relevant

There are some mature topics, such as sexuality, as well as cursing and violence, but I think that it's a great platform for discussing topics that are relevant to today's teens.
Teen, 13 years old Written bySunStreaks January 8, 2012
AGE
16
QUALITY
 

Awesome Book:)

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 16 years old Written byBryn Clare August 1, 2012
AGE
11
QUALITY
 

Nightshade

My favorite book ever, Nightshade is amazing, but readers should know that un-graphic lust, violence, and plenty of action cover the pages.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex

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