The Edge of Nowhere

Common Sense Media says

Decent start to girl-who-hears-others'-thoughts series.

Age(i)

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Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Readers learn a little about life on an island near Seattle.

Positive messages

Some of the adults have wisdom to share with teens fumbling toward adulthood, but the central character doesn't hear much of it. A strong negative: Body image is given unnecessary negative attention. Becca believes she's fat, and her mom nags her about her weight. After Becca endures a period of struggling to get adequate food and needs to bike around the island, she slims down and is appraised as attractive. She also believes that wearing glasses and dyeing her hair brown for a disguise make her ugly. 

Positive role models

A few teens stand out for their kind and generous actions, and they take risks for good reasons. One adult goes to great lengths to help Becca, and another character gets wise counsel from his loving grandfather. Becca reaches out to boy who's suffering, hoping to help him. But otherwise she focuses on her own interests, often concealing information that's important to other people. Fear of her stepfather is used to justify selfish behavior. Her mother worries for her safety yet sends her to her new home alone and is then MIA for the rest of the story. 

Violence

The violence occurs offscreen: Becca's stepdad commits an awful crime, prompting Becca and her mother to flee from him, terrified, and go into hiding. Some of the teens are threatening.

Sex
A few mentions of kissing, and oblique references to adults having an affair.
 
Language
Some use of words including "bitch," "damn," "a--hole," "dyke," and "retard" -- but the author generally just refers to "gutter words."
Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
A group of teens labeled stoners is presented as abrasive and unpleasant. One adult is a recovering alcoholic whose son ruined his life with drug use. 
 

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Edge of Nowhere is the first in a trilogy with a supernatural twist: Fourteen-year-old Becca can hear the fragmented thoughts of people around her. No violent acts take place in the book, but fear drives many of the young characters. Becca's self-image has an odd prominence in the story. Her mom heckles her about her weight and eating habits, and Becca in turn is hard on herself. Regular biking around the island she's on and circumstances that make it hard for her to get a decent meal give her a svelte figure by book's end, but that may not be a great message for teens with body-image issues.

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What's the story?

Becca can hear whispers -- bits of other people's thoughts. When she discovers that her stepfather has committed a terrible crime, she and her mom go on the run to hide from him. Her mother puts Becca on a boat to Whidbey Island, near Seattle, and sets off for Canada to set up a safe new home. But the plan goes awry right from the start, and Becca finds herself completely alone, cut off from her mother and any support. Becca starts to carve out a fragile existence, befriending a talented musician who dropped out of school and a popular boy adopted from Uganda. But she soon finds herself enmeshed in a mystery that strains her new friendships -- and puts her in danger.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 
THE EDGE OF NOWHERE is mystery writer Elizabeth George's first novel for younger readers, and it's a long but decent yarn. The supernatural aspect adds complexity without overwhelming the narrative. George visits the story from the perspective of multiple characters, some of whom seem likely to play larger roles in future installments.
 
That said, even aside from Becca's ability to hear people's thoughts, the plot lacks credibility. Character motivation can be muddy to downright baffling, but George makes an effort to give each person some depth and surprising facets. Hopefully Becca will grow and mature as the series continues.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Becca's ability to hear "whispers" -- other people's thoughts. Do you think it's an important part of the story or a way for the author to hook into the popularity of teen books with paranormal elements?
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  • Families can also talk about Becca's decisions. She's scared and on her own at the age of 14. Does she make good choices? What about her mother's choices?
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  • Why do you think the author focuses on Becca's body image? What do you think of the way the issue is handled here?

Book details

Author:Elizabeth George
Genre:Mystery
Topics:Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:Viking
Publication date:September 4, 2012
Number of pages:448
Publisher's recommended age(s):12 - 18
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of The Edge of Nowhere was written by

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Learning ratings

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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