A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Meant to entertain, not educate.
The conflict between Maggie's conscience and the evil voice in her head begins to be resolved when Maggie decides to visit her father, long imprisoned for murdering his mother. She has to find out why he did it. Confronting evil takes courage.
Positive Role Models
Maggie's stepfather, Harry, sets an example of good behavior, a constant and kind presence in her life. But he has no significant action in the story.
Violence & Scariness
Maggie's killings are bloodless. She sets fire to the room where someone has passsed out, she pushes a person off a cliff, and cracks someone over the head with a stone-laden handbag.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Maggie gets smash-kissed and pawed on a first date. She fights the boy off and calls for a ride home. A sex party is mentioned in a letter from a friend.
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The voice in Maggie's head once says "s--t."
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Products & Purchases
A few brand names pop up to make the setting in upstate New York more real: Price Chopper, Stewart's.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some beer is consumed at a frat party.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that You Know What You Have to Do is a muddled story about a teen who obeys an inner voice commanding her to murder an abusive alcoholic and two savage bullies to satisfy her sense of justice. (The murders are violent but bloodless.) Maggie has nightmares and berates herself for being heartless, but is careful to hide the truth. Murder has no effect on Maggie's constant wisecracking about her mom and other topics of teen angst. The author creates a sympathetic character who can't help killing people. The novel presents the horror of a killer who blends in perfectly, but also trivializes the killer and her victims.
Is It Any Good?
Creating a serial killer with such typical teen problems as a clueless mom and a bonehead boyfriend takes more doing than this award-winning author has come up with. Characters drop into the story as if lowered by ropes to satisfy turns in the plot. The crime scenes are strewn with clues that nobody picks up on. And is it supposed to be funny that Maggie, who has nightmares after burning someone to death, goes for counseling -- only to get a crush on her cute psychologist? Maybe that's who the writer's going for, that reader with an odd sense of humor.
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.