The Goats

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
The Goats Book Poster Image
Camp tale gives readers a lot to think about.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The boy and girl run away, lie, steal. The girl is concerned about touching a black person's skin.


A boy has scars from cigarette burns.


A boy and girl are stripped and left together. The boy notices the girl's pubic hair and nipples. They see a centerfold. The girl has her period. A teen boy puts his hand on a girl's backside. A girl wears a "Milk Bar" T-shirt. Some innuendo.


One mild word for breasts.


A few products mentioned: Cokes, a Cabbage Patch doll, etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teen girls smoke, reference to a father who took drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that, as part of a cruel joke, two young teens are stranded on an island together without any way to get back to camp -- and without any clothes. But even though they're naked, there's no hanky-panky; instead, the mortified outcasts work together to survive the experience and get revenge on the bullies who tried to humiliate them.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLizzieHorsegirl10 October 27, 2014

Amazing Book

This is one of the best books I've ever read! It's about Laura and Howie, two teenagers, who are stranded, naked, on an island. They don't even k... Continue reading
Adult Written bythinkofthechildren April 9, 2008

Not appropriate.

My 10 year-old granddaughter read this! She loved it and recommended I read it. I was appalled at the language I found in this book. God did not put me on this... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bygraceeeee June 8, 2014

Not Very Good

My school read this for summer reading and as a student I felt that it was not a very good book and was a little bit awkward to read as it involved some stuff t... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written bywalshcat911 December 10, 2013


This book is so good. I have read the book and seen the movie they are both wonderful. In the movie they cut out some of the more inappropriate scenes. My favor... Continue reading

What's the story?

Two social outcasts at summer camp, Howie and Laura, are stripped and marooned by their campmates on an island in the lake. Possessed of intelligence and determination the other kids knew nothing about, they decide to get even by simply disappearing.

Through the difficult process of getting off the island, getting clothes, and surviving while avoiding the widespread search that is made for them by a camp more afraid of lawsuits than concerned about the cruelty practiced by its residents, they gradually and tentatively form an emotional bond that becomes the one thing they can rely on as the whole world seems to conspire against them.

Is it any good?

Some young readers may be frustrated by the ambiguous ending, even as they revel in the children's ongoing defiance of a hostile world. Unlike many survival stories, the main characters are not lost in a wilderness but are eking out their hunted existence at the edges of civilization, though Howie is mightily tempted to try to disappear into the woods and never be found. With glancing commentaries on the many and varied relationships between and among children and adults, the author gives readers much to ponder and discuss.

THE GOATS made quite an impression when it first came out in 1987. It takes place in the children's fiction favorite locale to examine the cruelty of mankind: summer camp. (In fact, it has the kind of grit shown in another well-known cruelty-in-camp novel, "Bless the Beasts and Children.") But what sets it apart from others in its genre is the careful tenderness of the relationship between Howie and Laura, a deeply emotional relationship that never becomes sexual. It's finally that bond, portrayed with great delicacy and beauty by the author, that becomes the most meaningful part of their harrowing experience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the emotional and physical effects of bullying and the human tendency to single out those who are "different." Why have Howie and Laura been labeled social outcasts? Do they accept these labels or reject them? By the end of the story, have Howie and Laura become different people? How are they different?

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