Shining On: 11 Star Authors' Illuminating Stories

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Shining On: 11 Star Authors' Illuminating Stories Book Poster Image
Short stories about coming of age; some sexual references.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Teens will likely find at least one character in here to relate to. Readers will find lots to discuss as they explore these different coming-of-age stories, and may be inspired to read other works from these popular contemporary authors.

Positive Messages

These coming-of-age stories are about "fighting through to find one's place," as author Lois Lowry notes in her forward.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's easy to relate to these teens and be on their side as they face some really hard challenges -- and learn important lessons about what real love is all about, or even how to get over a heartache.

Violence

A girl is disfigured after a terrorist bombing.

Sex

A boy keeps asking a girl to "touch it." References to "dykes," tongue-kissing, bras, an unbuttoned blouse while kissing, sex appeal, parents having sex, PMS and periods, "boobs" and "boob jobs." A gay teen comes out to his family.

Language

One "Christ."

Consumerism

Snack food, soft-drink, and chain-store brands.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to alcohol, "getting high," teen drinking; an adult smokes a pipe.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, while there's nothing graphic, there are lots of sexual references, including a homosexual teen, French-kissing, and a boy who keeps asking a girl to "touch it." These coming-of-age stories are about "fighting through to find one's place," as author Lois Lowry notes in her forward; readers will relate to these teens and be on their side as they face some really hard challenges, including disfigurement, coming out, and a dissolving family.

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What's the story?

A collection of 11 short stories from some of today's top novelists for young adults. The mostly British authors touch on topics such as coping with blindness and disfigurement, coming out to one's parents, liking someone who's not cool, discovering grandparents were once young, and even, in one story, dealing with ghosts. This book includes an introduction by Lois Lowry, and brief bios of the authors. A portion of the money generated from the sale of this book will benefit CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation and Children's Oncology Group, partners in the search for a cure for childhood cancer.

Is it any good?

None of these stories is really terrible, but none will knock your socks off -- which, given the pedigree of the writers, is surprising. This collection was first published in the U.K., and most of the authors are British. Lois Lowry contributes an introduction that attempts to draw a common theme from these disparate stories, and, disappointingly, she includes only an excerpt from one of her novels rather than a new story. Many of the authors are first-rate -- Meg Cabot, Anne Fine, Melvin Burgess, Meg Rosoff, among others -- but the stories are just OK. 

Meg Cabot comes closest with a lighthearted take on an image-obsessed girl falling for a geek. Most of the rest are deadly serious, and sometimes preachy. These stories are reasonably enjoyable and pass the time pleasantly, for the most part. But these authors can do, and have done, better.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about this book's theme: that it's tough growing up today. Did you know that proceeds from the book's sales benefit pediatric cancer charities? Why do you think is the connection between the theme and this donation?

  • The editor says in her forward that it's harder for teens growing up today than ever before. Do you agree? What is it that makes it so hard?

Book details

For kids who love coming-of-age stories

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