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 is a pretty mature book: Not only are the characters coping with the loss of someone they love, but there is plenty of sexy material as well. Lennie hooks up several times with her dead sister's fiance -- he even puts his hands under her shirt and down her pants. Later, she and Joe kiss on a bed, and talk about having sex. She confesses that she is a virgin, but he is not. The language can be rough, and there is pot smoking and teen drinking. There is a good message in this book about taking control of your own life. At the end, Lennie has to decide what she really wants -- and this means taking her music seriously again, and revealing her most vulnerable feelings to Joe.
What's the story?
Lennie is extremely close to her older sister, so after Bailey dies, she is a "shell-less turtle... demented and devastated in equal measure, an unfreakingbelievable mess of a girl." She misses Bailey terribly, but living without a shell -- and out of her sister's shadow -- opens up new possibilities for her, too. She even begins a complicated romance with a new boy at school, a talented musician who is hiding pain of his own.
Is it any good?
There are probably too many wacky characters and twists in this plot, but Lennie's authentic voice keeps the story grounded. As she struggles both with losing her sister and falling in love for the first time, her narration remains honest and poetic: "I've always been into the Big bang theory of passion, but as something theoretical... something that I might secretly want bad but can't imagine ever happening to me".
She doesn't always head down the right path (after her sister dies, for example, she hooks up with her grief-stricken boyfriend several times, then doesn't come clean to her new love); even then readers will understand her motivations and find it easy to root for her. The little poems and stories she writes and secretly scatters around her town not only fill in some of the narrative, but they give readers a peek into her sensitive soul.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about books and movies about loss. Can you think of other media that deal with getting over a loved-one's death? Do you think it's helpful for someone who has been through a death to read a book like this? Do books and movies ever realistically portray the emotions that you go through when someone you love dies?
Families can talk also talk about wacky families. Lennie's grandmother paints green women with no faces, her uncle is constantly getting married and divorced, and Lennie and her sister used to lay down in the middle of the road and read. Can you think of other books about eccentric families? What is it that we find appealing about this kind of family? Do you know any other families like this? How do these kind of families make you feel about your own?
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