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The Season of Styx Malone

Book review by
Terreece Clarke, Common Sense Media
The Season of Styx Malone Book Poster Image
Heartwarming story of friendship and adventure.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

The book has indirect educational value based on life lessons including trusting your instincts on when something is wrong and standing up to and for friends. There is also brief discussion on the different societal rules for black kids, Caleb recalls what his dad said about avoiding prison as a black kid "no sudden movements, keep your hands where they can see."

Positive Messages

The main positive messages in the book are the importance of being honest, asking for help when needed and being brave enough to stand up for and to your friends. Caleb and Bobby Gene are honest in their feelings with Styx as a sign of friendship even when he is less than honest with them. They are also honest with their parents about the summer's adventures when they finally realize that they need help beyond what they can do themselves.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are several role models including Bobby Gene who acts as the conscience of the summer adventure team. He reminds Caleb of their values while still allowing Caleb to make his own decisions. There are also strong parent influences, Caleb's mother and father and Mr. Pike who all work to hold the boys accountable for their actions while allowing them room to grow.

Violence & Scariness

A bully threatens other kids with a fight. Someone is injured in an accident and their body is described as twisted and bloody, but they end up being okay.


There is some mild swearing - damn, and shizzle which often is used instead of swear words.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon (How It Went Down), was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King (Author) Honor Book. It's a kooky adventure tale about two small-town Indiana brothers, Calebm 10, and Bobby Gene, 11, who come under the influence of a cool but shady 16-year-old neighbor with big secrets. Parents should be prepared to talk about peer pressure, how to make good choices, standing up to friends, and foster care.

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What's the story?

In  THE SEASON OF STYX MALONE, Caleb wants to experience life beyond his small town in Indiana. With a whole summer of adventure before him, Caleb and his brother, Bobby Gene, encounter Styx Malone, a cool kid with some big secrets. The promise of the Great Escalator Trade (trading a small thing for something better on the way to reaching what your really want, in this case a scooter) tests the kids and their friendships as things get crazier than they ever imagined. Can it get any crazier than trading your baby sister for a bag of fireworks?

Is it any good?

This fun, kooky, madcap adventure is a fun read with nuanced layers and a plot driven by the desire to be something and somewhere else. Author Kekla Magoon kicks off The Season of Styx Malone with a compelling question: Are you special if you're the only one who sees it?

Styx is a shady, older teen character, and Caleb is too trusting, but the twisty intrigue has readers asking important questions about character motivation and decision making. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about peer pressure in The Season of Styx Malone. How much are Caleb's decisions due to his own desires or to the influence of Styx? Have you ever had friends with strong personalities who made it hard to say no? How did you navigate those friendships?

  • Caleb's dad talks about maintaining a scale of optimism. How do you stay positive in life? 

  • Does it count as stealing if you make an unwitting trade? What about withholding information that might make a person change his mind? Is having good morals a clear case of black and white/good and bad, or are there gray areas? 

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