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Sex, mature themes make engaging read for older teens.

What parents need to know

Educational value
Not applicable
Positive messages

A good message that anyone can change for the better.

Positive role models

Every character is flawed -- some more profoundly than others -- but readers may be inspired by their willingness to change. Dakota, most notably, decides to start treating people better. Jena learns to like who she is and Owen takes a big risk. Even Skye, who has an intense struggle towards the end of her own story, is able to make peace with a different side of herself.


Mentions of a fatal car accident and an anonymous suicide note is found.


Dakota and Jena have a pretty intense make-out session shortly after meeting at the resort. He also makes many comments about her body. Jena wonders about Skye's sex life, and later spends the night alone with Dakota's brother (though they only kiss). Dakota and Skye both talk about having sex in high school, and Skye auditions for many sexy roles as an actress. 


Lots of adult language, including lots of sex-related words.


Characters talk about iPods, BMWs, Twix, Pop-Tarts, Cheese Whiz, etc.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters drink beer and champagne. Dakota meets a woman who smokes, though she says she doesn't do it around her child.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need ot know that there is a lot of sex stuff here: Dakota and Jena have a pretty intense make-out session shortly after meeting at the resort and he and Skye both talk about having sex in high school. There is lots of adult language, including sex-related words, and characters drink and smoke. Even more, characters are dealing with heavy stuff: Dakota's girlfriend died in a car accident and Jena finds a mysterious suicide note while on vacation. Overall, while characters make a point to change themselves for the better, this is definitely a book for mature readers. 

What's the story?

This book is narrated by four different teens: Jena and Skye -- opposites whose mothers were college roommates -- and brothers Dakota and Owen. All four end up spending their Spring Break at an expensive Caribbean resort. During their vacation, self-esteem challenged Jena ends up hooking up with Dakota, who quickly ditches her for stunning model/actress Skye. Meanwhile, shy Owen spends most of his vacation writing on his blog, Loser With a Laptop. As they recount their own stories over the next few months, these characters reveal some intense personal struggles: Dakota's cheerleader girlfriend died in a car crash and seemingly perfect Skye struggles with a secret no one suspects. And they each grow up in some important way, too ... and one pair even finds unexpected love.

Is it any good?


This is a complicated piece of work, but Mackler handles her material well. She even manages to make each character sympathetic -- including those who don't seem very nice on the surface. As with many novels narrated by multiple characters, readers will identify with some of protagonists more than others. Also, because Mackler is juggling so much plot here, not all the characters or plot points get fully developed -- this is especially true in Dakota's story, where he meets an interesting woman right as he is wrapping up his section.

But overall, readers will find plenty to keep them engaged, from Jena's discovery of a mysterious suicide note, to Dakota's attempt to work "on the karma thing"  -- and even a very sweet romance that blossoms between nerdy but nice Jena and Owen.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about responsibility. In the beginning of this book, Jena finds an anonymous suicide note. She is concerned but Dakota tells her  that if someone wants to die, "I'm not going to stop you." What would you do if you found a note like that? Would you tell an adult, or keep it a secret like Dakota suggests?

  • Because she is a model/actress, Skye spends a lot of time watching what she eats and keeping out of the sun. What kind of sacrifices would you make for fame? Would you drop out of school to spend more time on your career? Give up your favorite junk food? If you were Skye's mom, would you want your daughter to sacrifice so much at such a young age?

  • Owen gets sent to a camp for kids who are so obsessed with technology that they've failed to develop social skills. Obviously, the camp is a bad fit for him -- but are programs like this necessary? Do you know kids that spend more time with media then they do with real life? Do you think there's a problem with being always plugged in?

Book details

Author:Carolyn Mackler
Genre:Coming of Age
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date:December 29, 2009
Number of pages:320
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 17

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Teen, 16 years old Written byMPercy May 15, 2011
What other families should know
Too much sex
Great messages
Teen, 14 years old Written byemexee April 10, 2011

Great book for teens 13+

Omg I loved this book it was so good
Teen, 14 years old Written byNirvana Girl July 26, 2011

I think it's pretty good

I'm in the works of reading this book and so far it's pretty good. It's just the intensity of that make-out session between Dakota and Jena that set me off a bit. I mean the detail was a little... errrr, graphic. But aside from that it's perfect for anyone who's mature enough to understand it.
What other families should know
Too much sex