A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The second half of the book turns into comparative mythology 101 -- the gods and goddesses from various cultures and some of their attributes and origin stories are pivotal to the plot.
Readers get the idea that family can mean more than who you are related to by blood. Ash's Blackwood friends have unconditional love for one another, which endures through times of trouble.
Positive Role Models
Ash can be tough, sarcastic, and sometimes petty and mean -- but she's also strong, powerful, and disciplined. She also shows her loyalty to her friends by helping to protect them even when her life is on the line.
Violence & Scariness
From the opening scene, when Ash is set to fight the girl who hooked up with her boyfriend, there's a lot of violence in the story. Characters are killed or injured in a variety of paranormal ways -- being struck by lightning; impaled; aged prematurely and swallowed by the earth; crushed by a falling building; and engulfed in flames (just to name a few). Besides the body count, Ash and her good friends are often fighting rivals and would-be kidnappers and generally running for their lives.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Ash is with three different guys in the course of the story. She's a jealous girlfriend and appears to know what she wants from a guy. She describes herself feeling "hot" or "lustful" over her objects of affection. There's some passionate and even horizontal kissing and making out, as well as the regular flirting and dating involving secondary characters. One pair is revealed to be "friends with benefits," and a girl calls a guy a "prude" and "dud in the sheets." A high-school girl admits to getting pregnant after her one-and-only sexual encounter.
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Typical adolescent cursing, including "bitch," "s--t," "assh--e," and insults like "slut," "loser," "crazy-ass," and the like.
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Products & Purchases
Ash notices and calls out various brands from time to time: Gap, Coach, Marc Jacobs, Honda, Buick, Ford, etc.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The boarding-school teens frequent a local bar, drink on and off-campus, and spike some punch with vodka at the Spring Week masquerade. Ash and her friends are near drunk on a couple of occasions.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this coming-of-age fantasy features teens with paranormal abilities. Teens should be prepared for some violence: The body count begins in the earliest chapters, and later in the story, protagonist Ash witnesses several deaths, including those of people very close to her. There is also some decidedly PG-13 language, and adolescent lust, romance, and even a high-school pregnancy. Even so, readers might find a role model in refreshing Ash: she's brassy, smart, self-confident -- and loyal. And they will learn a thing or two as well: The second half of the book turns into comparative mythology 101
Is It Any Good?
Readers may find strong Ash a refreshing protagonist: She's not a shy wallflower waiting for a cute boy to help her blossom. Ash knows she's hot stuff, whether she's beating an opponent on the tennis court or flirting with a guy on the dance floor. But she's not sure who -- or what -- she really is for most of the book, and that makes her appealing -- at least when the pace picks midway through the book.
Unfortunately, other characters aren't so well-drawn: Scary big sister Eve is one-dimensional as the unabashed "bad girl," and the author doesn't develop Ash's friends enough to care too much when they're put in harm's way. First-time author Knight's writing suffers from some clunky prose and unanswered plot holes, but once the action takes off, fantasy-loving teens will be guessing and wanting more -- and hoping for another installment.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.