A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this website.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this collaborative writing site invites girls 13 and older to help tell the fictional story of Amanda Valentino, a strange teen who mysteriously disappears from the halls of Endeavor High School after only a few months of attendance. Developed by the same creative minds behind The 39 Clues, The Amanda Project is a little dark and a little disjointed. It's also clearly a marketing tool for an upcoming "Amanda" book series being planned by Harper Collins (the first book is due out in September). But the writing is clever and the site is a safe and friendly place for kids to practice their mystery writing skills -- and possibly see their contributions used in a real book.
Is it any good?
Despite a somewhat confusing execution, The Amanda Project is a worthwhile creative writing destination for both girls and boys. This new breed of social media site is supposed to be designed and written as if by characters in a book, who invite users to enter their world and help solve a mystery with the ultimate goal of using the community's ideas to shape a published novel. Pretty neat, if you can overlook the commercial aspect. The problem is a lot of this isn't made terribly clear. For instance, though there are hints in that direction, nowhere does the site ask kids to create characters for themselves. Clues and storylines are thrown out for comment without benefit of a timeline. Kids could use a tad more info on the main character beyond the fact she "completely and utterly changed everything" before disappearing. What saves The Amanda Project is the top-drawer writing, found everywhere from the sample chapters to the hilarious fictional profiles.
Online interaction: Interactions are limited to comments and message board posts, which all seem to be polite, friendly, and collaborative as kids offer suggestions for advancing the story. The site uses both technical filters and humans to patrol content, and warns girls upfront not to be vulgar or "hating" on pain of expulsion. If someone does misbehave, the site provides both an email address and an online form to report it.