Touching Snow

Book review by
Kate Pavao, Common Sense Media
Touching Snow Book Poster Image
Vivid, violent child abuse story sure to leave mark.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Will encourage teens to think about the impact of abuse, and also why abused kids may not want to reveal the truth. More sophisticated readers may want to think about how physical discipline differs from abuse, and how this is different in other cultures.

Positive Messages

This book definitely deals with some harsh topics, but the end is somewhat hopeful. The abused sisters realize they are "guardian angels for one another" and they are going to work to protect each other and the other people they care about.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Karina makes some difficult choices -- including murdering her stepfather and covering up the crime -- so it's hard to call her a role model, exactly. But she does murder him in order to save herself and her sisters from nearly constant fear and abuse.


There are intense graphic depictions of child abuse as well as description of a child's beaten body after a near-deadly beating. Kids are punched, whipped with a belt, kicked, and burned. Later, the protagonist kills her stepfather with a slat of wood and then sets fire to the house. Also, one sister is molested by "the neighborhood pervert."


Karina's friend tells her she wants to lose her virginity and has made a plan to sneak out and meet her boyfriend. Later, the girls kiss, sleep in the same bed, and look at pornography together. 


Some swearing like "S--t," "f--k," "bastard," "balls."


A few mentions of stuff like fast food, stores, and band names, but it's mostly to give context to the story -- like the economics of Karina's family and the story's time period.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults and teens drink, get drunk, smoke, and use drugs. This behavior is not glamorized, especially Uncle Jude's alcoholism.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this National Book Award finalist features horrifying child abuse, and a girl admits right in the beginning that she killed her stepfather before revealing the story of what he did to her family. There is some drinking and swearing, a bulimic character, and Karina and her female friend kiss, sleep in the same bed, and look at pornography together -- but it's really the images of the abuse that mark this book for mature readers. It's a moving story with a hopeful ending as the abused sisters realize they are "guardian angels for one another" and they are going to work to protect each other and the other people they care about.



User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byHeroneSilverton September 14, 2009
*This review contains spoilers*

I no longer use CSM (except to attempt to set the records straight when books/games/movies are rated unjustly), simply because... Continue reading
Adult Written bylindsey12345 April 5, 2009

what was the aurthor thinking

the book has swearing it must costs alot of money and it is a rare book
Kid, 10 years old January 27, 2011
Kid, 8 years old March 30, 2010

What's the story?

Karina lives in New York in the 1980s, but her family comes from Haiti where she says adults often use corporal punishment on their kids. But her stepfather's beatings are extreme -- one beating left Karina with head trauma that causes her to have fainting spells. When her stepfather nearly kills her older sister Enid, someone anonymously turns him in. But Karina's mother and relatives pressure her to cover up the truth from social workers and even a judge, because they need him to help pay the bills. Her mother says she won't let her stepfather beat them anymore, but what will happen when he comes home?

Is it any good?

There are some complicated ideas here that require a sophisticated reader. For example, after Karina murders her stepfather, her life -- and the lives of her family members -- is greatly improved, and she suffers no guilt or consequences because of his death. Also, the author touches on some culturally sensitive issues around parenting and discipline that parents may want to help their teens sort through. Even so, this is a vivid and powerful novel that readers will remember. Karina is a very real narrator, made so believable by the casual way she drops in details about her horrific situation, like that you have to "try and stand still when a belt is coming at you."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the intense subject matter. Many kids have to live in abusive homes, but it may be disturbing for some readers to learn Karina's story, especially since it is told in vivid detail. Who should get to decide if a book is appropriate to read?

  • This book's protagonist admits right on the first page of her story that she killed her stepfather. Later she details how abusive he was to her family. Does this justify his murder?

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