As a coming of age novel, this book has some really beautiful moments. The protagonist is a deep thinker, and he makes a lot of connections between what is going on in the world and his own life. It’s nice to see a young person figuring things out in a sensitive, thoughtful way.
The writing is extremely well-crafted, and the story moves along at just the right pace. I found myself really rooting for these characters to find some peace, and when they did, it was realistic and satisfying. The main characters dealt with extremely hard things with grace and insight, and they helped each other out, which was touching without being sappy or unbelievable.
Note: I gave this book a 3 out of 5 rating because I struggled with the extreme language and felt the themes were really packed into the story. While they all meshed and made sense (one horrific event does tend to lead to another), it was a bit overwhelming. A 13-year-old protagonist dealing with these kinds of issues might be resilient, but I would hesitate to introduce them all to a child unless they’d been through similar experiences and needed a cathartic release. In a case like that, I can see using this story as a way to help a wounded child heal by doing the same kinds of reflection that Charlie does.
This book was sent to Compass Book Ratings for review by Knopf Books for Young Readers
Profanity/Language: 32 religious exclamations; 31 mild obscenities; 2 religious profanities; 52 derogatory names; 120 scatological words; 61 anatomical terms; 58 F-word derivatives.
Violence/Gore: A character is burned by hot water; a character is attacked; several reports are made of kidnappings and murders with no details; a character is bullied; a house is set on fire; a character playacts an attack with a gun; a character is beaten in an extended hate crime scene (2 pages); a character is found hanged to death in an extended scene (3 pages); a character overhears a rape/incest incident; a character describes finding the hanging victim and cutting her down several times; two characters cut down the victim and sink her body in a pond; a character witnesses a suicide in an extended scene (1.5 pages).
Sex/Nudity: Two characters kiss and hold hands; male characters joke about sex; male characters joke about homosexuality; a character caresses another character’s face; two characters engage in heavy petting with few details; two adult characters are caught by a minor having sex in a car with few details; two underage characters have sex with no details; a character hears her sister being raped by her father in an extended scene (2 pages).
Mature Subject Matter:
Divorce, racial tension, hate crimes, suicide (completed), parents fighting in front of a child; homosexuality references, war.
Alcohol / Drug Use:
Underage drinking and smoking; two teenagers get drunk; two characters have alcoholic parents.