Write Before Your Eyes

Book review by
Stephanie Dunnewind, Common Sense Media
Write Before Your Eyes Book Poster Image
An unoriginal fantasy plot, but some good discussion points.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Some of what Gracie does with her power is positive (helping the food bank, blood bank, and animal shelter) and some of what she does is negative (like giving her friends acne and bad hair for gossiping about her sister and making a boy she likes more interested in her than before). Parents answer their cell phones and kids play portable video games at the dinner table. Gracie's parents argue because her dad doesn't have a job. When the school drops its dress code, girls take off their shirts and do a victory dance in sports bras.

Violence

A girl tells Jen to stay away from her boyfriend; they shove each other and then the girl starts hitting and slapping Jen.

Sex

Dylan suggests sleeping in each other's bedrooms as one of the advantages of being invisible. Dylan asks Gracie to make a girl he likes kiss him. Plus some mild sexual innuendo and references to boys patting butts and brushing breasts.

Language

"Hell," "sucks for you," "crap" (often), "bite me," "freaking" (as an adjective). A girl calls Jen "a lying skank."

Consumerism

Several brand references (Nike, Polo, BlackBerry, Game Boy, La-Z-Boy) and to songs by specific artists, such as Incubus.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know the protagonist in the book seems younger than eighth grade, which make the romantic parts of the book a little jarring. Many "craps," references to boys brushing breasts and patting butts, and a girl fight in the lunchroom mean this a choice for readers older than the publisher's suggested 8 and up. Gracie's power is sometimes used for good and sometimes used to manipulate feelings or punish others.

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What's the story?

Eighth-grader Gracie realizes anything she writes in the journal she picked up at a yard sale becomes true, at least in a sense. When she writes that a fuchsia elephant appeared, for example, a jogger with a purple elephant on his shirt runs past. Aided by her best friend Dylan, Gracie tries more elaborate wishes (her dad gets a new job, her older sister's crush asks her out) and discovers that even good events carry repercussions. As problems spiral out of control, Gracie loses the journal -- and must get it back so she can set everything straight.

Is it any good?

Some readers might relate to Gracie's experiences as the middle child in a dysfunctional family or how she feels mousy and nondescript. There's plenty for kids to talk about around the idea of this book, though it should have been developed better.

A magical diary is the central clichh in WRITE BEFORE YOUR EYES; the "be careful what you wish for" message is supported by a host of other clichhs, including a grinning Cheshire cat, a subplot where Gracie doesn't know if her brainy crush likes her for real or because of her wish in the book, and an invisibility mishap. Several subplots remain undeveloped (the principal at Gracie's school is fired then reinstated; Dylan doesn't remember that Gracie manipulated his feelings for her). Unappealing characters don't help either: Gracie's shallow older sister Jen tells her jobless dad, "It's so humiliating to tell people we live in this apartment. I don't even want to invite anyone over." The writing often feels forced; when their mother insists she wasn't really mad, "all three kids looked at each other as if they'd been send at Warp 7 on the Starship Enterprise to another galaxy." Even Star Trek fans will say "Huh?" to that allusion.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they would do with a magical book that turned written statements true. In the book, Gracie's wishes don't always work the way she intended; can family members anticipate any potential problems if their desires came true? Gracie uses some of her wishes to fix problems with her parents' marriage and some to make a boy "more than friends" with her. Do you think someone should have the power to manipulate the feelings of others?

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