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Seven Deadlies: A Cautionary Tale
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Seven Deadlies is a satirical book about rich kids struggling with the seven deadly sins: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, and wrath. There's no gory detail but plenty of violence: a boy who eats himself, an elderly lady who calls in a hit on her grandson, and a boy who's paralyzed during a football game. Teen narrator Perry, a Latina student on scholarship, blames bad parenting for the overindulged rich kids at her school but concludes that we all have the seven deadlies inside us. She also learns the "ultimate challenge of life [is] not to find happiness, but to see it."
- Parents say
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What's the story?
Smart, driven Perry is a Latina scholarship student at a rich private high school. There, she tutors the indulged but largely ignored students, getting an inside glimpse into their lives ("It's not that the kids are dumb; it's worse, much worse. They're entitled"). She tells their stories -- and those of other kids -- in satirical tales with a sin theme. In "Sloth," her charge is obsessed with video games; in "Envy," a girl constantly changes her appearance until even her own mother can't recognize her. Each story's main character ends up killed, missing, or severely injured.
Is it any good?
SEVEN DEADLIES is such a strange story it's hard to decide exactly how to take it. With her practical, straight braids and common-sense attitude, Perry makes for a likable misfit narrator, and it's easy to relate to her take on modern parenting and overindulged children ("We should have a parade for the word no, have an annual No Day....No could save humanity. No to war, no to poverty, no to video games").
But, as with a lot of novels told through installments, some of the short stories here work better than others. Readers will remember the boy in "Gluttony," who not only eats the family cat but also his own flesh. But "Envy" lacks any real energy -- a missed opportunity for a more original story, especially since, according to Perry's wise mother, Envy is "the most dangerous sin of all." Readers may be puzzled by the conclusion, a letter from Perry's mom that introduces a new spin on the stories, and they may feel that, rather than adding mystery, it undermines her daughter's hard-won realizations about sins and happiness.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about which audience Seven Deadlies is written for. It features a teen protagonist, but it's being marketed as an adult book. Who do you think is the ideal reader?
Which of the seven deadly sins -- envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth, wrath -- do you think is the most rampant in our culture today?
What do you think of Perry's idea that the "ultimate challenge of life [is] not to find happiness, but to see it"? What does this have to do with the deadly sins?
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