A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Discovering and moving into an underground bomb shelter from the '80s leads to lots of discussion of Cold War history and culture. There's also the occasional word like "triskaidekaphobia" -- fear of the number 13.
Strong messages of family, friendship, empathy, and kindness. Also respecting differences, having friends' backs, and figuring out how to solve problems.
Positive Role Models
Characters demonstrate communication, courage, empathy, and teamwork. Each of the 8th grade main characters has a distinct voice and a distinct set of issues to deal with -- e.g. one kid suffers regular beatings from his stepdad but puts up with it for his mom's sake, while another is being pressured to steal. Each of them has quirks and weaknesses, as well as moments to shine. Seventh-grader Janelle is big on the importance of honesty in relationships -- and also proves a resourceful companion and more than a match for bullies. Evan's grandmother, who's raised him and his brother since their parents abandoned them, is a tower of strength who takes no nonsense. Her friend, Ricky's mom, is also a positive force, as is Janelle's dad, a cop. Creepy characters include a teenager who's leading Evan's older brother down a problematic path, and C.J.'s charming stepfather, who's not so charming when the rage takes over.
Strong, independent girls and women. Teen characters face a range of issues, including one who has obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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Violence & Scariness
A 13-year-old is regularly beaten by his abusive stepfather and spends a lot of time improvising skateboard injuries to explain the cuts and bruises. He fears for his mom, who becomes another target for his stepdad and suffers a battered face.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Middle school romance: Jax (8th grade) and Janelle (7th grade) are a couple. The other guys call him "Romeo" a lot. She's notable for her good sense and insisting on communication and honesty in their relationship.
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Products & Purchases
PlayStations and other present-day tech, e.g. Call of Duty, are part of the scene-setting. In the bomb shelter, the boys find and later eat a whole lot of canned goods from the '80s, like Spaghetti-O's, and watch a lot of old Star Wars and other movies on videocassette.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug use is cast in a negative light, as Evan and his older brother have been raised by their grandparents ever since their parents went into rehab and then went back to drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Fort is best-selling author Gordon Korman's 100th book, and it's a gem. The main characters -- four 13-year-old boys who've known each other since childhood, plus one new kid -- grapple with heavy issues. One's parents are using him as a pawn in a bitter divorce. Another is being raised by his grandparents since his parents can't escape their drug dependency. A third deals with obsessive-compulsive disorder -- and the fact that his family can't afford therapy. And then there's the one who claims that he keeps getting his gruesome injuries from skateboard accidents when he's really being abused by his stepdad. When the boys accidentally discover a long-abandoned but remarkably well-equipped bomb shelter, it sets the stage for revelations, conflicts, and resolutions. Creepy characters include a teenager who's leading one of the boys down a troubling path, and an adult who's very charming except during his violent outbursts of rage. Two middle schoolers are a couple. One subplot involves a lot of pee humor.
Is It Any Good?
Gordon Korman's 100th book is an instant classic tale of 8th graders who discover a long-lost bomb shelter and make it their own, with life-changing results. As its young inhabitants take turns telling their story, The Fort offers them a refuge from a lot of relatable problems, from being the new kid in school to getting caught up in a difficult divorce. Teens also face pressure to take up crime and try to avoid abusive adults. But, of course, you can't keep the outside world outside forever – which is where friendship, camaraderie, and occasional support from unexpected quarters comes in.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.