A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this book is a heavy read. It starts off with the intense, brutal rape and dismemberment of a 14-year-old girl. Most of the novel is narrated by the dead girl and there are more murders of women and girls described, often in great detail. There is alcohol use, adultery, teen and adult sex, and some swearing.
What's the story?
Susie Salmon was 14 years old when her neighbor raped, murdered, and later dismembered her body. In a heaven-like place Susie keeps watch over those left on Earth that matter -- her family, her friends, and her murderer. Susie is unable to let go of the life she had and relentlessly spies and lives by-proxy through those left. She is consumed with trying to figure out a way to make her murderer pay for his crimes. Will the family ever find closure? Will the police ever catch the killer and recover more than just her elbow bone?
Is it any good?
Alice Siebold is a gifted writer and within the first three pages of the novel, readers are hooked. They are terrified for and engaged in the main character's narration and ordeal. The plot is beautifully executed, telling a horrifying story in a way that is not overwrought or self-indulgent.
The quality of the novel, the depth of character development, and lessons held within the story makes it, without question, a wonderful book. The real question is if this novel is appropriate for teens (who may have renewed interest in the story because of the 2009 movie). Given the media's insatiable appetite for crimes against children -- particularly white, middle class girls -- most teens have an awareness of the subject matter and this book may facilitate a discussion on such a tough topic. This is definitely one to read alongside your teen, no matter their age.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about trusting your instincts. What clues did Susie have that something was wrong before she was murdered? Have you ever had an eerie feeling about someone or something? When is it OK to refuse the coaxing or orders of an adult/authority figure?
Families can also talk about dealing with tragedy. Why was it important for Lindsey and Buck to talk to someone or to have an outlet for their grief?
How does this book depict the afterlife? Is it in line with your views?
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