A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
This is a book that teens will enjoy reading -- and the open-ended conclusion could lead to some spirited discussions.
Calma's and Kiffo's friendship feels authentic and touching, and it remains in the reader's thoughts after the last page is turned.
Positive Role Models
Calma is a smart, creative, funny girl, but even she gets sucked into making some poor choices. Still the teens here are sympathetic, and their friendship authentic.
Violence & Scariness
A woman punches a dog, a car and motorcycle accident, Calma has violent fantasies involving guns, mentions of abuse, death of a major character.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Calma sees up a boy's shorts, her mother asks if she is having sex, she is accused of having a lesbian crush on a teacher, she mentions her large breasts several times, a reference to masturbation.
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A fair amount, including "f---k" and "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
Several products mentioned.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Teens and adults smoke and drink; a teacher may or may not be dealing heroin.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this book is about teens who try to prove their teacher is a drug dealer -- and they are not afraid to stalk her to do it. These very sympathetic teens have very bad attitudes toward adults, authority, and school, caused (in Kiffo's case) by an abusive father and a brother dead of a drug overdose, and (in Calma's case) by a missing dad and a mom with two jobs who's pretty much absent from her life. There's plenty of swearing and bad behavior, and an ambiguous ending that may frustrate some readers.
Is It Any Good?
It's always exciting to see a first-timer with major talent appear on the scene, and author Barry Jonsberg is all that and more. This is a passionate, complex, humorous, and moving story with some satisfying plot twists and a truth that is only gradually revealed. Told in the first person by Calma, it has a witty, sardonic voice and gritty realism.
It also has plenty of rookie mistakes. The narrative goes off in too many directions, and the pointlessly ambiguous ending will frustrate many readers. Jonsberg also seems determined, as many first-time authors are, to throw in every good idea he's ever had: funny horoscope entries, imagined movie dialogue, flashbacks, last-minute revelations, comedy, tragedy, letters, essays, etc. But the core of the story, Calma's and Kiffo's friendship, feels authentic and touching, and it remains in the reader's thoughts after the last page is turned.
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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.
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