A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dana Mele's People Like Us is a psychological thriller set in a posh boarding school. When Jessica Lane's body is discovered in a lake, it looks like suicide. But it's not long before it becomes a murder and suspicion falls on Kay Donovan, a scholarship student who's one of the most popular girls in school. When Kay receives an email from the dead girl's account threatening to reveal a tragic secret from her own past unless she exposes the darkest secrets of six of her classmates, she believes she has no choice but to comply. There's another murder, multiple suspects, and friends betraying friends before the truth is revealed. Teens regularly drink and sometimes get drunk at parties and on their own. Opposite- and same-sex couples kiss, and there's lots of talk and gossip about sex and who's having sex, but nothing is graphically described. A few instances of strong language, including "f--k" and "a--hole." The consequences of bullying and lying are strong themes.
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What's the story?
PEOPLE LIKE US at Bates Academy means privileged people, not students like Kay Donovan, who comes from a middle-class family. But she's reinvented herself since coming to Bates on a soccer scholarship and has become one of the most popular girls in school. When Kay and her friends discover Jessica Lane's body floating in a nearby lake, everyone assumes it's suicide. Until the police decide it's a murder. The day after the body is found, Kay opens an email from the recently deceased Jessica that links to a revenge website. If Kay doesn't do exactly as the website instructs and expose the misdeeds of six of her classmates, a tragic secret from her own past will be revealed. It's not long before her seemingly perfect life at Bates is in tatters. Revealing the secrets of some of her closest friends has turned the school against her, and the police have now made Kay a prime suspect -- not only in Jessica's murder but also in another one.
Is it any good?
Serious themes of mental illness, sexuality, and bullying are seamlessly woven into a fast-paced psychological thriller filled with secrets, revenge, jealousy, rich kids, and betrayal. People Like Us could easily have been just another conflict between scholarship kid and privileged kids at a fancy boarding school (with a murder thrown in), but Mele spends time showing readers the whys behind a character's actions. What makes it so hard for some people to forgive? How could someone be so filled with hate that revenge is the only way to feel whole again? People Like Us can be read as a really good whodunit or as a way to open up a serious conversation with parents and peers about some of the hardest-to-talk-about issues confronting teens.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the characters in People Like Us respond to being bullied. Have you ever been bullied or been made to feel like an outsider at school? If you know someone is being bullied, what's the right thing for you to do?
How far would you go to protect a secret? Do you think Kay's secret was so terrible it was worth betraying her friends?
Are there times when a friend's secret should be revealed? What if a friend told you he or she was being physically or sexually abused? What if you learned someone had the answers to an important exam and was going to use them to cheat?
- Author: Dana Mele
- Genre: Mystery
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
- Publication date: February 27, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 13 - 18
- Number of pages: 384
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: June 19, 2019
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For kids who love mysteries and thrillers
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