A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ellen Hopkins' Rumble is a novel in free verse that tackles a wide-range of issues, including bullying, cyberbullying, suicide, and book censorship. Protagonist Matt is angry after his brother commits suicide -- and he finds his brother's body. The novel includes some frank sex talk and graphic sex scenes, including oral sex. Matt also discusses that he was the product of unprotected sex, truthfully tells his mother that he and his girlfriend are not having sex, and remembers a time when a drunk boy tried to kiss his brother, who's gay. There's teen drinking (as well as adult drinking and smoking), and a lot of swear words, including "s--t" and "f--k," and some derogatory words for gay people. Also, Matt has a gun, fantasizes about violence -- and later becomes a victim when a disturbed veteran creates an explosion that leaves Matt wounded. Matt has a lot of anger, but he's tolerant of many people's differences and eventually learns to "have faith in love." This is a thick book, but it's written in verse, making it a good choice for reluctant readers.
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What's the story?
Matt's angry after his depressed brother hangs himself. He's so angry, in fact, that he even fantasizes about killing the kids who bullied him, many of whom consider themselves to be Christian. He's also angry about his horrible home life, and especially his father, who rejected his gay brother when he was alive. But that's not all that's happening to him: He's also working to hold on to his religious girlfriend, Hayden, even though he seems to hit it off better with Alexa, her former best friend. But is it lust or love? And what should he do when Hayden's father tries to get a book banned at school? Or when an unstable veteran walks into his uncle's gun range, bent on a violent revenge? Through all this turmoil, Matt's going to have to figure out what he needs to let go of -- and what's worth hanging on to.
Is it any good?
Fans of author Ellen Hopkins' other free-verse books will find an interesting and familiar mix of topical issues, mature material, and a troubled teen protagonist here. Like her other books, this one is thick at nearly 600 pages, but teens will move quickly through Matt's journey.
At some points, readers may feel that Rumble is more about the issues than the storyline, such as when Matt gets involved in the fight to stop a book's censorship -- something Hopkins herself is very passionate about. But, in the end, readers are likely to enjoy debating many of the big issues here, especially Matt's anti-religion position.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about suicide due to cyberbullying. What do you think we as a society could do to prevent bullying online and offline?
Matt's angry at the Evangelical Christians who bullied his brother (even after his death, a youth pastor calls his homosexuality and suicide "weakness"). What do you think about the way religion's portrayed here?
Rumble deals with book censorship as a parent tries to get The Perks of Being a Wallflower banned. Should a book ever be banned? Who should decide what you read?
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