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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Some advanced vocabulary words like "sincerity" are explained.
Don't make something up because you think it's what others want to hear; you're almost always going to be wrong about that. Running away doesn't solve your problems, it only causes more problems. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone is listen to what they say, and believe them.
Positive Role Models
Narrator Lucas, 11, models communication, empathy, and perseverance. He starts conversations, asks questions, and listens carefully. He wants to understand his brother Aidan's experience and puts himself in his brother's shoes. When things are tough for him and his brother at school, Lucas does a good job of coping and making it through. Positive LGBTQ+ representations include a transgender aunt, and a seventh-grade boy who has a long-distance, same-sex romance.
Violence & Scariness
Some scariness and suspense from a missing child who's gone long enough to be feared dead, with a safe resolution. Some verbal bullying and teasing by middle schoolers.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Mention of seventh-graders who are dating.
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"Farting," "sucked," and "butt."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother) is a middle-grade mystery about what happened to 12-year-old Aidan and where he went when he was missing for six days. There's some scariness, suspense, and fear that he might be dead during the time he's missing, with a safe resolution. Mild potty humor includes "farting" and "butt," and something "sucked." There's also some verbal bullying and teasing by middle-schoolers. Themes explored include truth, honesty, fantasy, reality, and the importance of being believed.
Is It Any Good?
This is an absorbing, thoughtful, and ultimately poignant story from veteran YA author David Levithan, who this time unusually writes for middle schoolers instead of older teens. The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. will get tweens thinking about truth, honesty, fantasy, reality, listening, and believing thanks to narrator Lucas' believable voice. Nuances of all these issues are explored without dumbing anything down and without being overwrought. In the same way that A Wrinkle in Time is many young readers' first and most vivid encounter with scientific complexity, this book may be a vivid awakening to thinking about the complexities and subtleties of truth, the value of honesty, and how or whether to believe the unbelievable.
The plot is well structured and evenly paced, weaving attempts to uncover the mystery with attempts to get back to normal after a life-changing event. There are one or two lose threads, but the characters are easy to root for, and readers will enjoy the depiction of two brothers becoming closer as they start to mature. The ending is moving and satisfying, but leaves plenty of room for for different takes about the issues raised.
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.