A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Reed strives to be popular, even though the girls in the top clique are not kind to her.
Violence & Scariness
At a party, Thomas holds Reed down against her will -- then pushes her to the ground in anger.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Reed loses her virginity and also sneaks around to be with her boyfriend.
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Some swearing and mean talk.
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Products & Purchases
A sprinkling: Mercedes, Kerastase hair products, Abercrombie, Coke, Lucky Charms
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Thomas deals drugs, other characters drink; Reed's mother is an addict, as are Thomas' parents.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Reed obsesses over a clique of popular girls who can sometimes be quite mean: They pressure her to steal a test, break up with her boyfriend, and spike a teacher's drink; later they even conspire to have another girl thrown out for cheating. Also, Reed's boyfriend -- whom she loses her virginity to -- drinks, deals drugs, and pushes her down in a rage. There is also some swearing and mean talk, along with a little label name-dropping.
Is It Any Good?
This series starter has a lot of the trappings of the clique lit genre: An elite boarding school, a group of beautiful and popular girls, and lots of mean talk and pranks. It also has another common trapping: The debut sets up a lot of intrigue, but nothing is resolved (and it's unclear what lessons the protagonist has actually learned). What sets this book a little apart is that protagonist Reed is a realistic and sympathetic character. Blue-collar Reed can't wait to escape her boring hometown and her abusive, addicted mother. But she's flawed, too -- when Thomas accuses her of using him, he's right. And she uses the popular Billings Girls to a certain degree as well, though she's not driven by materialism, but rather a deep longing to belong.
In the end, readers will connect with Reed -- and all the drama she finds at Easton Academy, from discovering that her boyfriend is the school drug dealer to suspecting that the Billings Girls helped get someone expelled. Teens taking a break from required reading will likely find enough fun here to have them RSVPing for the next installment, Invitation Only.
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