A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a book about teenage pregnancy, which means that teens (in this case, 15-year-olds) have sex -- and the girl gets pregnant. None of it is described, but there are discussions about condom use, abortion (the girl refuses), and other sexual references. There's also some swearing, and numerous products are mentioned. Teens deal honorably and fairly maturely with the consequences, firmly supported by their families -- and readers will walk away with a real understanding about the consequences of teen sex -- and just how many lives are impacted.
What's the story?
Fifteen-year-old Sam is an ordinary, nice kid. He gets along pretty well with his single mom, who had him when she was 16. He does OK in school, and has a few not-very-close friends. He likes to skateboard, and idolizes Tony Hawk, whose poster he talks to about his troubles, and gets answers that are quotes from Hawk's autobiography, which Sam has memorized. When he meets a pretty girl, Alicia, who wants to have sex with him, he is naturally thrilled, and they start a passionate relationship. They are careful and use condoms. After a while the passion cools, and they split up. But then Alicia discovers she is pregnant, and she is determined to have and keep the baby. So begins a journey for which neither of them is ready.
Is it any good?
It may seem odd to say about a book on this theme, but with the author's touches of magical realism, humor, and warmhearted respect for his characters, this is a delightful read.
The jacket copy says, "Nick Hornby has made a career writing about men who act like boys. Now he gives us a boy who acts like a man." That's about as perfect a description as you can get about where Hornby's first book for teens falls in his oeuvre so far. The book is filled with his characteristic wit, insight, and appealingly quirky characters -- especially Sam, who thinks Tony Hawk is a god, and who gets all the advice he needs by talking to Hawk's poster.
Adult authors often stumble when they try to tackle writing a kids' book. But given the kinds of books Hornby has been writing, perhaps it should be no surprise that his first YA novel is so well done.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the issues this story raises. How does it compare with other books that you've read about teen pregnancy? Is it more or less realistic?
The author, Nick Hornby, is best known for his books for adults. What makes this book a young adult book? Is it just the teen narrator, or is it more about the lessons the characters learn?
For kids who love mature topics
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