A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Readers might want to learn more about mental illness and how it's treated. They also might want to explore First Amendment and privacy rights, particularly concerning teens and the Internet.
The book is clearly meant to sound a warning about the danger of rumors, assumptions, and the nastiness encouraged by anonymity online, as well as to shine a light on mental illness and how easily it’s misunderstood.
Positive Role Models
Dani’s mother is at first inattentive, but once she realizes what’s happening she goes to considerable lengths to protect and help her daughter. Other adults, including a police officer and a teacher at school, are extremely judgmental of Dani and her family. Dani’s best friend doesn’t stand by her during the ordeal, but her new boyfriend tries to respect her wishes and needs. One classmate with a crush on her goes out on a limb to help her even though she doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. Dani herself shows considerable bravery and self-awareness to take the steps she feels are necessary to protect the boy she baby-sits.
Violence & Scariness
The violence is mostly imagined or threatened: Dani graphically imagines herself killing several people, including a young boy, his mother, and her own boyfriend. A vigilante group pursuing her seeks to exterminate, detain, or “modify” people who prey on children. A teen affiliated with that group threatens to hurt Dani. Commenters in online forums post threatening messages. Dani is encouraged to hold a knife to her therapist’s throat as part of her treatment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Dani and her boyfriend kiss and her friend tentatively pursues a relationship with another girl. Dani imagines herself touching the genitals of her a cappella group's music director.
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Mild swearing and vulgar insults including "bitch," "dyke," lesbo," "skank," "prick," and "twat."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One teen character smokes; his father appears to be a recovering alcoholic and resumes drinking by the story’s end.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the teen protagonist has very graphic thoughts about killing and verbally hurting the people closest to her, but at no point does she seem seriously at risk of acting on her obsessions. The community rises against her and very few people show her any understanding or compassion. The book is clearly meant to sound a warning about the danger of rumors, assumptions, and the nastiness encouraged by anonymity online, as well as to shine a light on mental illness and how easily it's misunderstood.
Is It Any Good?
This could have been a meaty story exploring mental illness, parental paranoia, and the danger of rumors in the Internet age, but there are too many false notes. The teen characters are inauthentic and unrealistic; the supposed therapy and long-term implications of this form of mental illness are poorly explained; and shallow characters and implausible plot elements turn it into a shrill exercise.
Author Janet Ruth Young does a nice job depicting the speed and nastiness with which the campaign against Dani spreads and grows, using newspaper accounts, blog posts, and the perspective of different characters. Overall, however, there's little for readers to grab on to. The dramatic interactions are hung on huge developmental pegs -- budding romance, coming out as gay, Dani's diagnosis -- but lack depth. It's an entertaining but ultimately disappointing read.
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.