A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Carrie Diaries is a young adult-targeted Sex and the City prequel of sorts. It's is a mature book with sex, drinking, swearing, and adult themes. While Carrie is a virgin during her senior year, many of her friends are having sex, and Carrie's boyfriend pressures her, saying, "But you can't expect me to wait much longer." Another boy pressures her to perform oral sex earlier in the book. She also catches a male friend kissing his secret boyfriend, and goes with another friend to help her get birth control pills -- while she's there, she sees a girl crying after having an abortion. Characters drink and smoke cigarettes and marijuana. Carrie and her friends go to bars and get drunk. (Before Carrie liked Cosmos, she apparently drank Singapore Slings.) The book can be deep, too, and Carrie learns some important lessons along the way, both about how to be a good writer and about what it means to be a good friend, girlfriend, and feminist -- all stuff she can put to use in Sex and the City.
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What's the story?
Carrie Bradshaw was once a virginal high school senior, living in New Jersey and trying to figure out how to navigate high school romance and friendships -- and dreaming of a writer's life in New York City. Even then, she burned pretty bright: She has a spark that lands her singing on stage with one of her favorite bands and a fashion sensibility that helps her transform her mother's ruined handbag into a fashion statement with a little hot pink nail polish. She even gets the whole school buzzing by writing a series of provoking articles under the name Pinky Weatherton. But she has her share of problems too -- most importantly, she suspects one of her best friends is cheating on her with her boyfriend. That and the school's queen bee is out to sting her.
Is it any good?
Bushnell certainly packs this book full of plot points: Carrie discovers a friend is gay, that another may be pregnant, and that one of her best friends is cheating with her boyfriend. Her mother's death has caused them all pain, and one of her sisters is becoming a criminal. To top it off, she has angered the most popular girl at school (and is causing more controversy with articles she is writing about cliques and popularity for the school paper). It's a lot, but mostly well done. The only major device that simply doesn't work here is Carrie's boyfriend Sebastian. Readers may understand the initial sparks, but he is so controlling and smarmy that it's hard to understand Carrie's burning desire.
But considering that teen girls -- and their mothers -- would have picked up this book even if it was just a list of Carrie's favorite high school outfits and '80s cassette tapes, this book has remarkable substance. Readers will not only find it believable that lively high school Carrie will grow up to be the funny, stylish city-dwelling sex columnist we know so well, they will also be left thinking about all kinds of important questions, such as what should you expect a high school boyfriend to act like? Or what does it mean to be feminist in today's society? These are the types of questions that often framed episodes of the popular TV show and kept fans debating between episodes. Ideally, this book will get parents and teens chatting in much the same way.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about who is this book for -- both teen readers and their mothers, who might be fans of the Sex in the City TV show? If you were the author, how would write it to make sure that both audiences want to read it?
Carrie discusses the death of her mother, whom she calls a feminist, even though she was a mother and always very ladylike. How has the definition -- and public perception -- of feminism changed over the years?
Carrie admits to acting dumb around her boyfriend. What are some ways that your friends act when they are dating someone that surprise you?
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