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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ninth House is the first book for adults by popular young adult fantasy author Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy, Six of Crows, Wonder Woman: Warbringer). Her teen fans will know about it -- it's marketed to them as well. If you have an older, mature teen reader already well versed in R movies with lots of mature content, this may be OK for them. There's a whole lot of drug use (the main character was a former user and dealer and her best friend died of an overdose), sexual content, and violence, especially jarring sexual violence with a date rape drug and a video passed around to add to the humiliation. A mental patient is kidnaped and cut open for a magic ritual. People are injured and die in gruesome scenes, including a stabbing and the bludgeoning with a baseball bat (described with "chips of skull and brain flying"). Language stays pretty salty as well, with frequent use of "f--k" and lots of sexualized banter, some tame and some cruel. The main character, Alex, had a difficult past and uses the tenacity she's developed to seek justice for those wronged, and she's pretty merciless about it. If this is not a fit for your teen just yet, try the similarly themed Truly Devious and Shades of London series, both a bit tamer, and both by Maureen Johnson.
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Some bloody adults couldn't handle this book, but I personally was ok with it.
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What's the story?
In NINTH HOUSE, when Alex nearly dies in a drug den, it turns into her salvation, or so she thinks. She wakes up in a hospital bed with the dean of Yale sitting next to her. He offers her a place at the Ivy League school and at the House of Lethe. Her whole life she's been able to see ghosts -- or Greys, as they call them -- and the House of Lethe needs her unique skill set. Alex's Lethe mentor is Darlington, a Yale senior who knows how all the magical societies on campus work, what specialized and often bloody rites they perform, and how to oversee them so everything is safe and secret, and all the Grey energy that surrounds them is contained. Darlington doesn't have long to teach Alex before he disappears and she's told to cover it up. Just like she's told to look away when a woman from town, a drug dealer, is stabbed to death near campus. But Alex can sense this is a cover up as well, and the deeper she digs, the more trouble she courts -- from Yale's secret societies with too much to lose, and from enemies on both sides of the Veil that she can't even fathom.
Is it any good?
This phenomenal and mature adult debut from a popular young adult author Leigh Bardugo is more twisty-turny-absorbing mystery than spine-tingling ghost story. Half the time, the ghosts that main character Alex see are just a nuisance to deal with. She's been bothered by the "Greys," and sometimes harmed and harassed them, her whole life. She forms a bond with one ghost, reluctantly, to solve a crime she knows the university is covering up. The more she digs, the more fascinating the story gets. It takes the reader in myriad directions: to many of the secret societies, a frat house, a prison, a drug den, a professor's salon, a warded safe house with a magic library, and even on the other side of the Veil. And the whole time she's missing her mentor, the gentlemanly and chivalrous Darlington, who's disappeared. What happened to him could be even worse than what she imagined, and is yet another intriguing layer of Ninth House.
Without Darlington, and with constant threats around her, Alex has no choice but to cast off her new Yale persona she's tried so hard to cultivate. It may help her fit in, but it's the grit and resilience she learned in her drug dealing years that will save her now. This Alex is reckless and impulsive and gets things done. Readers will be scared for her every minute as the pages fly by.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss the campus sexual assault in Ninth House. What's been in the news about similar scenarios (minus the magic elements)? How do the universities respond? How can teens heading to college protect themselves?
What happens with the video of the sexual assault? How does it spread? Are there videos of humiliations that you've seen? How can you stick up for someone in that situation?
Will you read more in this series? What do you think is next for Alex?
- Author: Leigh Bardugo
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs, Monsters, Ghosts, and Vampires
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Flatiron Books
- Publication date: October 8, 2019
- Number of pages: 480
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: October 25, 2019
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