A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the main characters are struggling with substance abuse, and there’s a lot of gritty material: language, sexual situations, drug and alcohol use, violent deaths, a near-rape, and more. None of it is either gratuitous or glamorized. In fact, the clear message is that reckless behavior can have devastating consequences – and that it’s never too late to change. Even so, this is a better fit for mature teens.
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What's the story?
Sixteen-year-old Maddie is furious, floundering, and in rehab, trying to come to terms with her substance abuse and anger issues. Her life begins to turn around when she meets Stewart, another young patient, at movie night and the two fall in love. Once released, the girl formerly known as Mad Dog Maddie tries to build a better future for herself, hopefully one that will include Stewart. But out of rehab, the two struggle to connect, and Stewart has a harder time staying sober. Maddie tries to focus on her future, working to salvage her grades and cultivate her few friendships -- all while trying to figure out how much she can risk to try to keep Stewart in her life and heart.
Is it any good?
After a harsh start, what emerges is a vivid, authentic story of a girl growing up fast. Maddie starts off as a living nightmare, but by book’s end she’s redeemed as a teenager who is both sympathetic and strong. In her character, teens will recognize an intense distillation of many issues that will resonate: peer pressure, public personas, flirtations, mature love, complex friendships, dangerous choices.
Bristly Maddie sneaks up on you, capturing your loyalty as she learns to engage with life and with other people. The secondary characters are skillfully developed, complex and, for the most part, skirt stereotyping. Teen readers will appreciate author Blake Nelson’s respect for his audience. He is neither pandering nor paternal. This isn’t just a story to scare kids away from substance abuse: It’s a realistic look at the hard work of growing up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about books and movies about substance abuse. How does this book compare to other takes you've seen on the topic? Do you think these kinds of stories have any impact?
What role do media play in teen drinking and drug use? Can you think of movies or television shows where this kind of behavior is glamorized? Parents may want to take a look at Common Sense's tips for discussing alchol in the media to find statistics and get further discussion ideas.
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