A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that as with Green's other books, this one contains some edgy material: teens will find plenty of salty teen language and sexual references here, though nothing graphic. Two kids come across the dead body of a man who killed himself, and later Q. wonders if Margo has committed suicide. Also, the very appealing main characters sneak out at night and conduct a series of pranks, involving vandalism and misdemeanors, for which there are no consequences other than a fond and amusing memory. But the characters -- and the writing -- are very sophisticated. Readers will find references to Moby Dick, Leaves of Grass -- and be asked to think critically about identity and how well we ever really know anyone.
What's the story?
Quentin lives next door to Margo, the amazing, vibrant, wickedly sophisticated teen goddess of his town, with whom he has been in love since they were in elementary school. But in high school she has mostly ignored him. A few weeks before graduation, she shows up at his window, leading him on a night-long series of payback pranks, after which she disappears. Worried that she may have committed suicide, Quentin obsessively pursues clues he thinks she has left him, involving Woody Guthrie, Walt Whitman, and nonexistent towns that are either failed developments or mapmakers' copyright traps.
Is it any good?
The key to author John Green's success is his books' vivid and engaging characters, both major and secondary, who are trying to figure it all out. With his third book, Green seems to be developing a specialty -- thoughtful, talky stories about smart but clueless high school boys trying to figure out girls, love, and life while dealing with a crisis and a road trip. Margo is AWOL for much of the book, and Quentin is obsessively trying to figure out what happened to her -- so it's his supportive friends who provide the reader with the humor and pure joie de vivre that makes the book fun as well as thoughtful. Quentin's two best friends are characters in both meanings of the word: Both are band geeks; Ben is obsessed with prom, thrilled to have a date, and likes to think of himself as retro-cool (he refers to girls as "honeybunnies," and Quentin is unable to convince him that it's not cool, it's just dorky). Radar is a fanatical editor of a Wikipedia-like site, and his parents have the world's second-largest collection of black Santas. Together with Quentin, they're a pretty sweet group of teens, and readers will enjoy their journey -- and conversations.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about edgy coming-of-age stories. Does the language or other mature content in this book seem realistic? Is there anything that is -- or should be -- off limits when it comes to books marketed to teens?
John Green's characters often go on road trips. What other road trip books or movies can you think of? Why are road trips so often a part of coming-of-age stories?
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