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 Dangerous Art of Blending In, by Angelo Surmelis, is a powerful, heartbreaking, coming-of-age novel based on the author's own abusive childhood. Be prepared: This is a tough read, but a worthy one. Although the message is ultimately uplifting, there are heartbreaking scenes of physical and mental abuse, as well as graphic scenes of bullying and homophobia. There's a reference to a same-sex kiss the previous summer and some descriptions of two boys kissing that leads to sex, but no graphic descriptions of sex. Mention of teens drinking at parties, and lots of strong language, including "s--t" and "f--k." In an author's note, Surmelis explains how he coped with being abused by compartmentalizing the different parts of his life, and he offers resources for support to encourage readers to "reach out and show the world who you truly are."
What's the story?
THE DANGEROUS ART OF BLENDING IN begins with 17-year-old Evan Panos, who kissed a boy at Bible camp over the summer, doing everything he can to keep this secret from his Christian mom, a physically and emotionally abusive woman who beats her son. He survives by being silent, but as the beatings become more serious, the abuse is harder to hide. Even with the relief of his art, his secret trips to a monastery, and especially his best friend Henry, Evan still struggles. Henry encourages Evan to see that he deserves better than his mother's violent rage, but will he find a way to escape his abusive home and live the life he deserves?
Is it any good?
This is a beautiful, brave coming-of-age story of survival, love, and coming out, based on the author's own childhood. It's an engrossing read, although the descriptions of Evan's mom beating him are heartbreaking. And when the adults in his community turn a blind eye, it's devastating. The love between Henry and Evan carries this novel, and in the end, even if it's a hard read, it's a must read.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how it felt to read graphic scenes of Evan's mother physically hurting him in The Dangerous Art of Blending In. If you knew Evan, how would you have tried to be his ally?
Where can you turn for help if someone is bullying you? Or if you see someone being bullied, how can you stand up to it?
How does knowing that The Dangerous Art of Blending In is based on the author's own life affect how you view the novel? What does this story -- and the author's note at the end -- say about finding support, surviving, and overcoming trauma?
- Author: Angelo Surmelis
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Balzer + Bray
- Publication date: January 30, 2018
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 18
- Number of pages: 336
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Last updated: March 14, 2018
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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.