A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, while not glamorizing them at all, drugs are central to the story and to the culture in which the main characters live. There's also some swearing, violence, and sexual references.
What's the story?
Iggy is about to be kicked out of school. His hearing is on Friday, but his junkie mother disappeared weeks ago and his junkie father is permanently strung out on the couch, so Iggy's on his own. But when his principal sends him home he says something to Iggy that sticks in his head: "We can all make something of ourselves, no matter what our situation." Iggy decides this means that if he can only figure out a way to change the way people see him he can turn his life around. But living in the projects with no parents to help, and his only friend a druggie who wants to be a Hare Krishna, this may well be an impossible undertaking.
Is it any good?
This author is rapidly becoming one of the most powerful YA novelists working today, and this books is certainly evidence. K.L. Going has that ability of only the very best writers to devastate her readers with quiet little moments in which nothing bad is happening. The scene in which Iggy wanders into a church and rearranges the creche to fit his view of reality (see From the Book below) is as poignant a scene as you are likely to read this year. This is a story about a boy who never had a chance in life, and never will, and yet he is sweet, funny, and sure that he can turn his life around if only the right opportunity will present itself. Iggy is one of those characters, hard to forget, who makes you see those around you in a slightly different way.
Imagine Holden Caulfield, a sweet, compassionate, heartbreakingly clueless kid, about to be kicked out of school, adrift in the city at Christmas time, and haunted by the horrors of his past. But instead of an upper-class kid being kicked out of a posh prep school, he is the child of junkies, his mother gone, his father permanently strung-out, living in the projects, born addicted, slightly addled but relentlessly hopeful in a situation that is truly hopeless in an uncaring world. That's Iggy, the protagonist of this gritty Catcher in the Rye for the 21st century.
From the Book:
So now I stand there thinking about all the crazy things that happen in the world, like babies born in barns and worse, being put in garbage pails, and I think how this whole manger scene is wrong because really it would never have happened like this.
I decide I will fix it, and first I take out Joseph because dads are hardly ever around, and then I move those shepherds out of the way because if that kid really was born in a barn then the police would get involved and it would be all "Move along, there's nothing to see here," and then I turn the rich guys around so they are headed in the opposite direction because if three rich guys found a baby in a manger they would hightail it out of there. That leaves the mom and the kid, so I stare at those two figures trying to decide if the mom stays or goes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Iggy's choices. Does he have any? How could he get out of his horrible situation?
What are some of the ways his perception of reality is skewed? Does this help or hurt him? Would it be better or worse for him if he saw things the way they really are and faced the dark truths in his life?
Why is he being expelled? Does the way he tells the story seem likely? Is it possible that his perception of the situation is inaccurate? What do you think really happened?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love quirky characters
Top advice and articles
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.