Watch Over Me

Book review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Watch Over Me Book Poster Image
Eerie, compelling ghost story about trauma and healing.

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A lot or a little?

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

Stands out for positive role models.

Educational Value

Contemporary fiction meant to entertain, not educate. Some aspects of foster care doscussed, includig what it's liek for people who age out of the system. 

Positive Messages

Good and bad are always with you, tangled together. But you have the ability to choose what you do with what you have. You need to accept and incorporate the person you used to be before the trauma, before the mistakes you made, in order to heal, change, and move forward. Giving your love to someone and allowing yourself to receive it have the power to heal and transform.

Positive Role Models

Mila is a positive role model for empathy and communication. She bonds with her 9-year-old student over similar past trauma and finds ways to talk to him about his fears and share her own. She also models perseverance by staying in a place that scares her so that she can help others. She hopes that she's a good person and tries to do what's right. The "found family" on the farm are an ethnically diverse group, and all model positive behaviors especially when it comes to supporting those who are grieving and recovering from trauma. 

Violence

Past physical, psychological, and emotional abuse is remembered. It's not gory, but it's straightforward. A child has a bent finger because it was broken in the past and never set. A man pierces ears with earrings instead of something sharp so it will hurt more. A few non-gory details are mentioned about a man burning to death while asleep in bed. There's a near drowning and blood from an injury during rescue is mentioned. The overall atmosphere is eerie, there's a lot of fear, most of it not defined specifically. There are ghosts, which aren't evil, and some characters like them while others are afraid of them.

Sex

Sounds of a couple having sex are overheard and brief mental images mention hips, breasts, and "him moving inside her." Masturbation is vaguely described as sliding down jeans and making oneself moan. A couple of instances of nonsexual nudity mention breasts.

Language

"S--theads" and "f--k."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens over 18 drink wine from a bottle once. Mention that adults drink beer, wine, or liquor straight from the bottle. A villain passes out and reeks. Mention that a parent overdosed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Watch Over Me is an eerie ghost story about recovery from trauma by award-winning young-adult author Nina LaCour (We Are Okay).There's very little violence, but past trauma and abuse are remembered without gory details. Parental loss and abandonment are prominent themes, and all of the non-adult characters are in varying degrees of recovery from trauma. Mila and her mother lived with an abusive man who manipulated them emotionally, psychologically, and physically. A child has a bent finger because it was broken at some point and never set. There's a brief but non-gory description of someone burning to death while passed out in bed. Overall themes are positive about our ability to heal and recover, and the diverse group of characters all model good ways to support someone through grief and trauma into recovery. Older teens drink wine once, and there are a couple of mentions of adults drinking. The villain frequently drank to excess in the past. Strong language is extremely rare but includes "s--theads" and "f--k." The ghosts aren't evil, and most characters aren't afraid of them. Some characters' fear of the ghosts adds to the dark and eerie atmosphere.

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What's the story?

WATCH OVER ME is the story of 18-year-old Mila, who's finished high school and officially aged out of the foster care system. She gets a teaching internship on a farm in remote Northern California, which is also a foster home to kids of all ages, hoping that some quiet time in the country will help her figure things out. Even when she learns that the farm is haunted by ghosts, Mila is determined that this internship is the best thing for her now. Soon she starts finding little gifts on her doorstep that directly relate to her past abuser, who's dead now. Haunted and terrified by the memories that are coming back to the surface, Mila will have to confront her past if to be able to choose her own future.

Is it any good?

Author Nina LaCour's strong, sometimes lyrical writing lifts this story of trauma, grief, and recovery well beyond the average ghost story. Watch Over Me is haunting and compelling, dripping with eerie atmosphere and pervasive fear and dread. But LaCour strikes a wonderful balance between nightmare and daylight by taking readers on Mila's journey to understanding and forgiving her past; learning how to give and receive love; and the beauty and peace that come from being able to make your own choices in life.

Teens will relate to Mila's fear that she might not be a good person and her need to find a place where there are people she loves and who love her, too. Themes of parental loss and abandonment as well as past abuse make it best for high-schoolers and up.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Watch Over Me shows other characters supporting Mila as she grieves and recovers from her experiences. Does it ring true? If you've suffered trauma or loss, or if you know someone who has, what kinds of things would be the most helpful? What kinds of things don't really help at all?

  • Why do we enjoy eerie ghost stories so much? Do you have different reactions to reading, watching, or hearing them? Why, or why not?

  • Does Mila's experience of foster care seem realistic? What are some issues people in foster care face as they become legally adult?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love ghost stories and coming-of-age tales

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