What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the main character decides to have sex with her Italian boyfriend, but the scene is barely described. She also drinks some wine with her meals with permission from the family she is staying with. In the end, she learns a valuable lesson about accepting herself as a whole person -- instead of being focused only on her weight.
What's the story?
There's a lot of pressure from her mom -- and her L.A. peers -- to be thin, and Hayley worries that she will never be anything more than the funny friend to the boy that she likes. When her parents send her to a friend's house in Italy, Hayley finds peace that she has never known. She is surrounded by healthy food, a family that enjoys talking, beautiful places to walk -- and even a cute boy who seems to think she is more than just a pretty face.
Is it any good?
Hayley is a funny, spirited character whom readers will quickly identify with. And the descriptions of the Italian countryside, from domestic scenes with her summer family to the special spot her Italian boyfriend takes her to, lend texture and magic to her story.
Readers may at times get tired of all the American bashing, even if a lot of it rings true. Toward the end of the book, for example, Hayley has dinner with a bunch of young Italian kids and is amazed at the sophisticated conversation they have about politics -- in English. Could any place be as ideal as the Italian world the author describes? Probably not. And her portrayal of shallow L.A. is a bit overblown, too: When Hayley arrives back at LAX, the conversations around her are all about nannies, plastic surgery, and agents. In the end, this may be a good book to give teens struggling with body image pressures (read: pretty much every teen). Hayley's journey to become a person living in her "perfect house of me" is both charming -- and inspirational.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about Hayley's criticisms of her L.A. hometown. Not only are the people around her obsessed with their bodies, but they also often choose unhealthy convenience foods -- and drive too much. Ask your kids: Do you find this to be true of where you live too? If so, can you think of any small steps that you could take as a family to become healthier -- inside and out?
Many coming-of-age stories start with an adventure in a foreign land. Can you think of others? What is attractive about this premise? Is it easier to find new insights about yourself when you are away from home?