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The Upper Class
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that younger teen girls who are into all of the "popular girl" series books will want to read this, but it will slap them with all the same raw, adult themes that make these books guilty pleasures. Teens drink a lot, smoke -- and even snort cocaine. One protagonist loses her virginity in the school library; another has an eating disorder. There is swearing, lots of label name-dropping -- and even some pretty disturbing hazing.
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What's the story?
Laine is from old-money Connecticut. Loud Nikki wears gold jewelry, glittery eye shadow, and swears like a sailor. The girls -- roommates at an expensive boarding school -- don't immediately bond; in fact Laine doesn't even tell Nikki that she's being targeted by the school's alpha girl, who wants her to drop out. But their troubled pasts and struggles to find themselves eventually bring them together.
Is it any good?
You've heard the story before: Two opposites form an unlikely friendship at a posh boarding school; what makes this story unique is that its characters seem very vivid -- and vulnerable. They both have deep family issues, and encounter new problems as well: Nikki falls for a bad boy, who gets expelled, and Laine's eating disorder threatens her field hockey scholarship -- and future college career.
Their prep school setting feels equally real. The authors went to boarding school together, and it's clear that they loved it, warts and all. Don't be fooled by the book's cheap packaging or its formulaic set-up. Readers will be truly moved by both girls' stories -- and appreciate their growing friendship.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about other movies and books about boarding school kids. What is it about the idea of kids living at school that intrigues us so much? What are some of the similarities you see between this book and other media in the genre (think: cliques, harassment, class differences, etc.)? How realistic are these portrayals?