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Tess of the Road
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Tess of the Road is a spin-off of Rachel Hartman's acclaimed fantasy Seraphina. The narrative follows Seraphina's younger half-sister as she sets off alone in search of a fabled World Serpent. The story contains violent scenes, including the memory of a sexual assault. Swearing is infrequent and limited mostly to "hell" and "damn." Sex is discussed frankly but not graphically. Tess has a problem with alcohol, which she uses to self-medicate.
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What's the story?
As TESS OF THE ROAD begins, Tess, the black sheep of the family, chafes at her subordination to her soon-to-be-married twin sister. Already judged harshly for having had a child out of wedlock, Tess creates even more of a scandal by spoiling the wedding ceremony. Disguising herself as a boy, she sets off on a quest to find the fabled World Serpent. Along the way, she reunites with Pathka, a reptilian friend and mentor, and meets new companions, all the while keeping her own set of secrets.
Is it any good?
Coming-of-age stories are the bread and butter of the YA market, but this richly textured fantasy tale of self-discovery is something special. Tess of the Road is both witty and gritty, not shying away from its darker themes but leaving plenty of room for lighter moments. Author Rachel Hartman has created a heroine who refuses to be defined by the misfortunes that have happened to her. Fans of Seraphina won't be disappointed, and newcomers should have no problem in falling under Hartman's narrative spell. At the end, it's clear that there will be further adventures, but there's enough of a sense of resolution that readers won't feel cheated.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Tess of the Road addresses issues of sexual harassment and assault. How are those issues portrayed in the media? Why has the #MeToo movement become so visible?
How does Tess of the Road address issues of gender and identity? How is Tess treated differently when she dresses as a boy?
How does the book portray alcohol abuse? Why does the character involved drink to excess?
Themes & Topics
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.