Book review by
Amanda Nojadera, Common Sense Media
XL Book Poster Image
Funny coming-of-age tale of self-esteem issues and bullies.

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age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

Teens will learn about evolutionary biology, the scientific method, gorillas, and how to surf.

Positive Messages

Themes include perseverance and communication. Don't underestimate yourself. It's OK for plans to change. You can't force people to stay the same.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Will sticks up for other underdogs. Brian is a loving father who teaches Will to never underestimate himself. Laura feels at home in her own skin, something Will needs to learn how to do. Drew is noble and always thinking of others. Monica is brave and independent.


Mentions of wipeouts and hitting reefs while surfing, dealing with bullies at school and parties, and an online troll who won't stop bothering Will. Will observes the gorillas at the Lowlands zoo exhibit and notes any violence or dominance displays in the Aggression Log. There's a joke about a character getting "raped to death by an angry gorilla."


Mentions of masturbation and an alpha male gorilla mounting a female gorilla. Teens make out and undress each other. A character loses his virginity and also wonders if his friends are having sex.


Strong language includes several variations of "s--t," "f--k," "d--k," "bitch," "bastard," "ass," "GTFO," "BFD," "douche," and more.


Pop culture mentions include Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Superman, Star Wars, and Space Jam, plus Fiat, Lyft, and more. Will's sudden growth spurt goes viral and he breaks a Guinness World Record.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Mentions of antidepressants, beer, rum, and tequila. Monica's dad has a drinking problem. Underage drinking at parties.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Scott Brown’s novel XL is a hilarious, heartfelt coming-of-age tale about a 16-year-old boy named Will Daughtry who learns how to deal with life's growing pains when he finally hits his growth spurt. Readers will learn about evolutionary biology, the scientific method, gorillas and their social hierarchy, how to surf, and the importance of perseverance and communication. Strong language includes several variations of "s--t," "f--k," "d--k," "bitch," "bastard," "ass," and more. There are mentions of masturbation and an alpha male gorilla mounting a female gorilla, and a character loses his virginity. There's also a joke about a character getting "raped to death by an angry gorilla." Characters deal with bullies at school and parties, and with trolls online. A character's dad has a drinking problem, and there's underage drinking at parties.

User Reviews

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Teen, 15 years old Written byCalabbyh July 29, 2019

Not Attention Grabbing

I picked up this book because it seemed to have a really grabbing concept but it ended up being very slow moving and boring to read. Age appropriate for high sc... Continue reading

What's the story?

In XL, 16-year-old Will Daughtry is short and begrudgingly believes he'll always be short. He's barely five feet tall, but with his best friend and stepbrother, Drew, and the girl he's had a crush on since middle school, Monica, by his side, he doesn't feel so small or overlooked. That is until their friendship dynamics take an unexpected turn, and Will realizes he'll always be out of their league. But things drastically change when he starts to grow at an alarming rate. Will's finally starting to feel comfortable in his body and pleased with his height, especially now that other people are noticing him. But the faster he grows taller, the faster his relationships start to deteriorate. Can Will handle the growing pains of life?

Is it any good?

Scott Brown's debut novel is an honest, heartfelt coming-of-age tale about the growing pains of life, making it a must-read for teens. Like many stories about high school, the characters deal with self-esteem issues, bullies, online trolls, and relationship drama, but Brown manages to present them in a unique way. Will's sarcastic, self-deprecating humor provides many hilarious pop culture references and jokes -- The Hobbit, his Fiat, and two-inch shoe inserts to name a few -- that will make teens laugh out loud. And the comparisons he makes to the gorillas at the zoo and their social hierarchy are a powerful way for readers to understand how Will views himself before and after his growth spurt.

Will sometimes whines too much about how unfair his life is, but he ultimately learns that everyone has their own insecurities no matter how tall they are. As XL progresses, teens will understand that growing up means learning how to feel comfortable in your own skin, understanding that you might grow apart from your friends, and accepting that change is part of life.

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For kids who love coming-of-age tales

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