A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
May be interesting for teens to contrast this book with other classic novels about alienated teens, especially Catcher in the Rye.
Not only points out the difficulty of connecting with people -- especially for smart, sensitive, damaged people like James -- but also the importance of making that effort.
Positive Role Models
James is a relatable narrator who is funny and insightful. Readers may not always connect with his choices or dreams, but the feeling of being alone in the world is a pretty universal one.
Violence & Scariness
James saw the 9/11 attacks from his school window.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Many references (to lap dances, the main character's possible homosexuality, parents trying to spice up their sex lives, used condoms, chat rooms, sexual harassment), but no actual sexual activity described or implied.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Occasional use of "f--k" and "s--t." The term "faggy" is used frequently to mean "unmanly."
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
Many stores and a wide variety of products are mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Smoking and drinking by teens and adults. Adults give a teen alcohol.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a compelling coming-of-age story, but its content and subtle storytelling make it a better choice for mature teens. There is a fair amount of swearing and many sexual references (including the main character's possible homosexual orientation), but no sexual activity. There's also drinking and a lot of product name-dropping. James is a relatable narrator who is funny and insightful -- and the feeling he has of being alone in the world is a pretty universal one.
Is It Any Good?
James will touch the patient reader with his desperate sadness, discomfort, dark humor, self-awareness, and fear. Like Holden Caulfield, James is a bright, financially well-off New Yorker who has had a breakdown of sorts, stemming both from a general sense of disconnection from humanity and from a specific traumatic event that is only gradually revealed. Like Holden, his inner monologues and way of looking at the adult world will sound familiar and ring true.
The adults in James' life, including his ineffectual psychiatrist, care in a distant sort of way, and readers may long to shake them out of their narcissistic stupors. The ending, such as it is, comes abruptly and doesn't really resolve anything. Perhaps it's this all-too-realistic touch, along with its sophisticated verbal style, that makes this funny, moving novel seem, like James himself, not to belong to its peer group.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.