Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You

Common Sense Media says

Authentic look at suicide, cutting, bullying, friendship.

Age(i)

2
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5
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8
9
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11
12
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14
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17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Educational value

Could open up important discussions on important issues, such as cutting and cyberbulling.

Positive messages

After Tink dies, her spirit tells Merissa not to kill herself and helps Nadia make an important discovery ("Is this how life is? ... You don't just think about things and get anxious about them, you do something."). In both cases, Tink helps the girls grow up and face the problems in their lives.

Positive role models

Parents wouldn't want to their teens to emulate the protagonists' behavior here, which includes cutting, eating disorders, suicidal thoughts, etc. But the girls mostly try to be good friends to each  other, especially Merissa, who supports Nadia during some crucial moments.

Violence

A teen cuts herself and looks at websites of other cutters. Three teens consider suicide, and one kills herself by overdosing. There's a discussion of the right way to slit wrists. A teen is slapped by her mother; another is slapped by her stepmother. Boys cyberbully girls, even sending a threatening, violent text to a girl who complains. A boy takes sexual advantage of a drunk girl. A man pushes a male teacher and accuses him of being a child molester.

Sex

A girl has a reputation for being a slut and mentions boys who demand oral sex in return for rides home. Her crush on a teacher -- and mentioning that he touched her hand during an emotional conference -- leads to the teacher being suspended. A husband has an affair, and another man marries progressively younger women. 

Language

Some strong language, such as "bitch" and "c--k."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A character kills herself by taking pills and drinking. Another teen can't remember what exactly happened with a boy after drinking at a party (where she might have been drugged). Adults drink wine. A depressed mother takes medication.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You deals with the aftermath of a teen who commits suicide by overdosing on pills and alcohol. Several other teen characters consider killing themselves, and there are graphic depictions of self-mutilation. One character is called a slut and bullied by boys both at school and online. Two teens are slapped by their parents. A boy takes sexual advantage of a drunk girl. There's some strong language, such as "bitch" and "c--k." But the protagonists -- including the spirit of a dead friend who helps the book's two main girls grow up and face the problems in their lives -- do support one another through difficult times.

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What's the story?

Told in three parts, TWO OR THREE THINGS I FORGOT TO TELL YOU shows the impact of an enigmatic teen girl's friendship -- and suicide -- on a group of other girls, particularly two high school seniors. In the first part -- told after Tink's suicide -- Merissa is a seemingly perfect overachiever with a dangerous secret: She enjoys cutting herself, even contemplating suicide after her family starts falling apart. The second part focuses on Tink herself, a former child actress who transferred into Merissa's elite private school and shook things up with her unapologetic attitude. Always unpredictable -- this is a girl who said \"I'd like to be your friend, but only if you promise not to ever, ever count on me\" -- her friends are hurt when she says goodbye to them forever through an impersonal text message. The final part is about Nadia, who deals with cruel bullying and a crush on a teacher that spins dangerously out of control. Tink taught these girls a lot while she was alive, and she continues to be there for them after her death, encouraging her friends to be brave enough to grow up and face up to life's hardships.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You is targeted at sophisticated readers, as it will take some effort to follow the nonlinear plotting. Readers will also have to accept Tink's presence as a spirit who looks after her former friends. Those willing to do the work will be rewarded with fully developed characters dealing with authentic and uncomfortable emotions, from Merissa's disgust at her mother's weakness when she's left by her husband to Nadia's reluctance to confront the boys who harass her.

Motivated parents who read along will find themselves educated about hot-button issues, such as cutting and cyberbulling, that could help them do some valuable check-ins with their teens.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about cutting. Teens: Are you aware of kids at your school doing it?  Does this book help you understand why some kids do it?

  • Do you think writing about difficult topics like cutting and suicide glamorizes dangerous behavior or helps raise awareness about issues that are hard to talk about?

  • Do you think Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You deals realistically with teen suicide?

Book details

Author:Joyce Carol Oates
Genre:Coming of Age
Topics:Friendship, High school, Misfits and underdogs
Book type:Fiction
Publisher:HarperTeen
Publication date:August 21, 2012
Number of pages:288
Publisher's recommended age(s):14 - 17
Available on:Hardback, iBooks, Kindle, Nook

This review of Two or Three Things I Forgot to Tell You was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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