By Stephanie Dunnewind,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Poignant story about a car accident's aftermath.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The teens discuss eating a baby (part of a game) at a restaurant table, prompting a nearby customer to call their behavior appalling. Teens trespass to swim in backyard pools, and then lie to police about where they've been. Natalie calls the older women in her aqua aerobics class "my regular fatties." Teens sunbathe wearing SPF 4 "screw-you-ozone" sunscreen. Natalie and her friends dismiss the idea of a "life mate," saying, "All you have to do is look at any of our parents to know what a pointless concept that is." The teens discuss their various ideas regarding heaven and hell, including one's opinion that there is no God. Friends support each other through rough times.
Violence & Scariness
A teen girl is hit by a car when she walks out into the street crying. Natalie imagines smashing her hand through the window, "scarlet blood pouring out." Teens discuss the horrors of the Crusades, the Holocaust, Sept. 11, and plagues. One asks, "How about if you were 16 . . . and they raped you . . . and then they raped your mother and burned everything else. And they said they were doing God's business."
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A girl asks a boy, "Like you wouldn't let someone out of jail for a blow job?" There is a reference to Claire having had sex with her boyfriend. A girl hooks up with a boy but he says it was "one-time only." One boy says his heaven would include lap dancers, and then when another says his heaven would be a bookstore, asks, "How are you ever going to get laid?" One note left at a memorial to Claire says the writer wishes they'd had sex. Natalie kisses the boy she likes.
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"Hell," "t-ts," "blow job," "effing," "crap," "pissy," "s--t," "damn," and "whore" (as an insult).
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Products & Purchases
The teens spend a lot of time in a restaurant where their friend works, plus a few name-brand products such as Post-it notes.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A group of teens drink whiskey; the main character later throws up.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this novel deals with a teen getting hit by a car and ending up in a coma, and how this impacts her family. The topic of death is handled sensitively and realistically, but it may disturb some readers. Characters talk like real teens, which means some cursing and irreverent discussions. Teens trespass to swim in backyard swimming pools (presented as a fun thrill); there are brief mentions of teen sex (in a committed relationship); and alcohol use by teens.
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What's the Story?
Natalie plans to spend the summer working as a lifeguard, hanging out with her friends, and preparing to miss her idolized older sister, Claire, who is leaving for college. But everything normal suddenly ends when a car accident leaves Claire hospitalized in a coma. Natalie wonders how she can cope, when the person she most wants for support is her big sis.
The \"would you\" game Natalie plays with her friends -- asking questions like \"Would you rather lose all your hair or all your teeth?\" -- turns somber: \"Would you rather just die, or be alive and seriously brain damaged?\"
Is It Any Good?
It's easy to be deceived by this slim novel, either by appearance (a light read, divided by subtitles into brief vignettes) or by subject (a depressing story about death). It is, in fact, neither light nor depressing, but heartbreakingly realistic, with devastating insight into how one teen endures a tragedy. Eleventh-grader Natalie and her friends are believable teens, with true-to-life dialog and situations (as Natalie notes about her friend, who works at their hang-out restaurant, "It bites to wait on your friends.").
The author never veers into saccharine or falls for easy solutions. She finds exactly the right note even at the end, which isn't happy or sad: It just is what it is. "If you stick a hopeful ending on there, it'll be a total lie," Natalie says. There's no message about drunk or irresponsible driving; it's a pure accident on all accounts, despite the family's wish for someone to blame. Natalie's engaging narration (the private room at the hospital is "really just the Bad Effing News Room") helps her -- and the readers -- bear the unbearable. As she tells her comatose sister, "Even fathers break. It started with you, Claire, the one broken person. But there is never only one broken person."
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about some of the heavy topics presented here, including organ donation and making end-of-life decisions. If families have not tried the "would you" game, it makes for interesting dinnertime conversation, as each person around the table poses a moral (or gross-out) dilemma (for example: "Would you rather eat a rat with the fur still on or eat sewage straight from the pipe?"). As the book explains, "The point is to have options that are not options."
- Author: Marthe Jocelyn
- Genre: Family Life
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Random House
- Publication date: July 8, 2008
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 14 - 14
- Number of pages: 176
- Last updated: July 12, 2017
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