The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit

Book review by
Carrie Kingsley, Common Sense Media
The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit Book Poster Image
Practical advice for kids to be humans with integrity.

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Lots of social-emotional growth information: setting boundaries, the importance of honesty and hard work, navigating friendships and sexual relationships, consent, abuse, and more. The sixth "challenge," covered under the headline "When Do We Talk About Sex, Dude," has references to male biological anatomy. 

Positive Messages

You have what it takes to be a good human being, even if sometimes you feel like you're failing. Respect yourself and others, do your best, maintain integrity. Asking for help is a strength.

Positive Role Models

The book is filled with examples of people who face challenges and use the principles in the book to make it through and thrive.


Factual, age-appropriate information about masturbation, pornography, sexually transmitted infections, discussion of consent, the #MeToo movement, different levels of sexual relationships.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mention of drinking as part of peer pressure.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that John Beede's advice book for tweens and up, The Warrior Challenge: 8 Quests for Boys to Grow Up with Kindness, Courage, and Grit, uses a straight-talking, conversational style to offer sound advice and concrete steps for kids' self improvement. The focus here is on personal growth and integrity, on respecting yourself and the people around you, and on working to make things better. While Beede says there's no set way to be a man, the beginning of the book has a bit of an assumption of physical prowess and machismo, which could make it harder for more sensitive readers to connect to the valuable messages. The chapter addressing pornography and sexual relationships could be a bit too advanced for the youngest readers, but Beede addresses the topics with facts, care, and a continued emphasis on personal growth and responsibility. At the end of the book there are steps for creating your own rite of passage, how to find a qualified therapist, hotlines for victims of sexual assault, physical and mental abuse, suicide, drug abuse, and more.

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What's the story?

Using true stories and direct language, THE WARRIOR CHALLENGE: 8 QUESTS FOR KIDS TO GROW UP WITH KINDNESS, COURAGE, AND GRIT identifies the framework for succeeding in life, including asking readers to identify what success means to them. Each chapter is a quest, including self-awareness, setting boundaries, respecting others, saying no in a productive way, identifying and dealing with toxic people, navigating sexual relationships, asking for help, and more. Real-life examples of warriors -- actor Terry Crews, skateboarder Danny Way, author John Beede himself, and others -- are paired with a step-by-step formula that helps readers navigate the path of authenticity and personal growth on the way to becoming good humans.

Is it any good?

Packed with real advice, true stories, and concrete examples, this advice book tries, and mostly succeeds, to balance between helpful advice kids won't read and trite advice kids don't need. The Warrior Challenge starts off with a lot of bravado, as if the only way to be a warrior is through physical strength and achievement. But it soon settles into deeper topics of integrity, self-worth, personal responsibility, awareness of others, and a serious amount of introspection for this age group. The book sets them up for success by providing a framework for thinking and talking about their feelings and priorities. And readers will find Johnny Dombrowski's dramatic comic-style back-and-white illustrations complement the text and help drive home the messages.

The chapter about pornography and sexual relationships uses clear language, with a big focus on consent and respect. Beede is sure to say that the warrior journey applies to everyone, but he wrote the book from his perspective as a straight, White male, because that's his frame of reference. The resources at the end of the book reaffirm his statement that it takes strength to ask for help, and that everyone needs help throughout their lives.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the lessons in The Warrior Challenge apply to their own lives. When have you had to set boundaries? What made that hard? Have you ever had to cut someone out of your life?

  • When have you found it hard to move past fear and try to accomplish a goal?

  • Who are some of the trusted adults you've turned to in your life?

Book details

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For kids who love boy-focused books and puberty guides

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