A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Waverly's sophisticated word choices and Marshall's poetic language should increase readers' vocabularies. Unusual topics discussed include the process of decomposition, cage fighting, and Machiavelli.
Be yourself. Everyone is different. Real friends like you for you. Kindness trumps meanness. It's OK to be imperfect. Alcohol and drugs won't fix your problems.
Positive Role Models
Waverly and Marshall start out as poor role models, but they help each other be better versions of themselves. Marshall stops smoking cigarettes and abusing drugs and alcohol, and Waverly allows herself to be imperfect by, for instance, taking a break from cross-country and expressing a more human side of herself.
Violence & Scariness
Brief descriptions of cage fighting and horror flicks (" ... the camera pans back and Jerry's leg is all mutilated and surgically altered").
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Reference to Marshall having slept with at least one girl he didn't love or even like, but it's not described. Rumors about characters' sex lives circulate. Marshall and Waverly make out passionately as they're falling in love: "His mouth on my neck is warm and sends a surge of electricity through my blood. And here comes the ravishing now, frantic, reverent."
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Most teen characters use strong language, including "s--t," "f--k," "p---y."
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Products & Purchases
Waverly and her new friend Autumn don't care about brand names, but Waverly and her main group of friends are very concerned with looking "pretty" by wearing natural makeup, styling their hair a certain way, and wearing expensive-looking clothes. After spending more time with Marshall and Autumn, Waverly cares less and less about meeting these standards.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Marshall smokes, and Waverly thinks it's disgusting and encourages him to quit. Marshall takes acid, smokes pot, and binge-drinks near the beginning of the novel, but that behavior tapers off. Teens, including Waverly, drink at a party near the end.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Places No One Knows, by Brenna Yovanoff (The Replacement), is a dark contemporary romance for older teens told in alternating chapters from the points of view of its two main characters, "perfect" popular girl Waverly and deeply emotional Marshall, who cuts class and abuses drugs and alcohol. One night, Waverly, an insomniac, uses a candle and deep-breathing techniques to lull herself to sleep and suddenly finds herself in Marshall's presence -- a paranormal event she repeats throughout the novel. Waverly and Marshall engage in some sexy make-out sessions, and characters make references to Marshall and other minor characters' sex lives. Strong language includes "s--t" and "f--k."
Is It Any Good?
This lyrical contemporary young adult romance has a unique premise and an intriguing touch of fantasy. Waverly is a refreshing female protagonist whose intelligence and sense of irony make the chapters written from her point of view engaging, while Marshall's chapters are filled with poetic language ("Most of the time, I'm starving"; "Without a cigarette there, reminding me to breathe, it's hard to get enough air") and reflect a depth of feeling.
Both teens exhibit dysfunctional behavior: Marshall with his abuse, and Waverly with her perfectionism (for example, running until her feat throb and bleed with pain). As they get to know each other better, Marshall likes the way he's allowed to be a better person with Waverly, and his substance abuse tapers off. For her part, Waverly's nights with Marshall wake her up to the idea that she doesn't need to be perfect to be liked, and he encourages her to get in touch with her emotional side.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.