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Parents' Guide to

The Carnival at Bray

By Mary Cosola, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 14+

Teen transplanted to Ireland finds her way in moving tale.

The Carnival at Bray Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this book.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 1 parent review

age 18+

Not appropriate for 14 year olds as rated

Even though this book might have a good story line, there is way too much sex, underage drinking, swearing, etc. for middle schoolers. After I was shown a couple of pages in the book then I had my daughter stop reading it.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (1 ):
Kids say: Not yet rated

In The Carnival at Bray, author Jessie Ann Foley paints an honest and moving portrait of the turmoil faced by a teen raised in a dysfunctional family. Maggie's mom drinks too much, has a quick temper, and goes through one boyfriend after another. Maggie's encounters with the opposite sex are mostly depicted in a realistic way, except for the beginning of her relationship with Eoin. They barely speak and hardly know each other before they're kissing. This kind of "insta-love" is jarring and out of place in an otherwise realistic novel. Maggie's grief over a tragedy and her rage at her mother are palpable. Her journey to Rome to fulfill a promise is a thrill and an object lesson in flying by the seat of your pants.

Foley's writing is beautiful and descriptive, and the dialogue rings true. The book shines a light on why many people turn to drugs, alcohol, and sex to combat deep-seated unhappiness. The concert scenes accurately capture the excitement of discovering music that speaks to you and sharing that euphoria with a crowd of strangers. The ending, however, feels rushed and disappointing. After so much action and anguish, Foley only gives us a paragraph followed by a brief epilogue to tell readers what happens. The book has a serious time line error regarding Kurt Cobain's death and the subsequent cancellation of Nirvana's European tour. It also has continuity errors regarding Eoin's academic situation and the status of his and Maggie's relationship at the end.

Book Details

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