Honor Girl

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir by Maggie Thrash

Maggie Thrash is not afraid to bring on the awkward in her graphic memoir, Honor Girl.  There is so much angst here, as there should be when you have a fifteen year old girl struggling through her first non-Backstreet Boy crush, who also just happens female. And a counselor at her camp.  Generally speaking all you need is camp+crush to achieve a good palm-sweat level of nervousness and stomach churning, but this really upped the ante.

Maggie is away at the same camp she has always gone to.  And that her mother attended before her.  And her mother before that.  It is all girls and heavy on tradition.  Maggie finds herself crushing on a counselor on the camp, a situation that she is certain will be frowned upon.  When a fellow camper discovers her secret, she and Maggie strike up a friendship born of secrets.  This new friendship sparks its own set of rumors, causing Maggie some problems, but the biggest troublemakers for her are the girls who surrounded her shooting rival, Libby.  Libby’s always been the best shot at camp, but Maggie’s need to escape her thoughts has led her to excel, rising even above Libby.  Libby’s friends take mean-girl bullying to the next level, making things physical at times.

I love the way friendships are shown in Honor Girl.  The way a situational friendship, one that has occurred because of a shared situation, or secret information, can blossom and almost supplant those that were in place prior.  It’s so very real the way you can be caught up with someone and end up telling them things that you wouldn’t tell people who are closer friends.  That whirlwind is captured perfectly here.

A myriad of reactions to Maggie’s sexual orientation are shown in Honor Girl. From complete blasé acceptance, to good-natured teasing, to disbelief, brushing it off, requiring she keep her feelings hidden and of course, the old “you can change”, it shows a full range of reactions that a teen might face.  Having so many different attitudes shown is great. I also appreciated that a counselor spoke to Maggie frankly about statutory rape and its potential consequences.  This is so often glossed over in books. Teens are routinely shown as engaging in relationships that fall in this category and yet it is never brought up. But it’s a real thing and in Maggie’s case, where people’s reaction to the sexual orientation of the people involved might be negative, there is possibly even a greater chance of adult involvement in the case and a desire to prosecute.

Framed in a flashback that allows Maggie to give you the final outcome of her summer of realizations and longing, Honor Girl will strike a chord with all readers who have felt the bittersweet pull of summer love and the deep longing that it will be requited.

Age Recommendation: Grades 9+  due to language and because it features a high school student.  But I would be happy to hand this to an 8th grader who was interested and would advocate making it available to anyone over Grade 6 who may have feelings for people of their own gender.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – a “sex quiz” is passed around in which campers record what base they’ve gotten to and who they’d like to lose their virginity to.  There’s a joke that a camper is a sexual prisoner.  There’s discussion of mooning people.  Naked butts are shown.  Campers discuss which boy is the cutest.  Someone has seen one with his shirt off.  There is teasing related to crushes.  Love notes are written.  There’s talk about a “gay code”.  Maggie wonders if her feelings make her a pervert.  There were rumors about a pair of campers, that they would wear each other’s underwear and sneak out together and were found together naked in a sleeping bag.  Maggie’s crush is discovered, her secret in another’s hands.  Penises are mentioned.  There is handholding.  There’s kissing.  There are rumors spread.  Campers joke about dressing like sluts.  A boy calls a camper sexy. There’s a comment about being on all fours.
Profanity – “fucking”, “God”, “freaking”, “shit”, “for Christ sake”, “bitch”, “dickheads”, “moron”, “jiz face” “damn”, “asshole”, “twat”,  “Jesus Christ”, also, while not profane, “midget” is a term that is considered offensive.
Death, Violence and Gore – The camp director would occasionally threaten to paddle the girls.  Girls shoot guns at a rifle range, trying to earn a certification from the NRA.  A girl slams another to the ground.  A book is thrown at a camper’s face, cutting it and causing her to bleed.  There is a joke about beating up boys.  A camper jokes (I think) about being suicidal.  A camper slaps another camper across the face, forcing her to the ground. A camper jokes about going on a killing spree. A camper says “say away from me or I’ll kill you”.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A boy tells a camper to “stay off the crack”.  She is not using crack.  Counselors are smoking.  Campers speculate that the counselors are drinking alcohol.  Someone who is hosting the campers is likely drunk and shown pouring a drink from a can that is very similar to a recognizable beer can.
Frightening or Intense Things – There’s some typical mean girl behavior.  Rumors are spread about girls.

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Girls! Girls! Girls!

It is a terribly common thing to publish a book with the word girl in the title.  Many of these books are actually adult books about women, in which case the word girl grates a bit. But around these parts, namely young adult, middle grades and kidlit, girl is generally very literal.

This month, I’ll be exploring some of these titles that feature girls.  You will be shocked, SHOCKED to learn that most of them also have female main characters.  I know, it’s earth-shattering.  This is also probably the time to remind you (just in case you’d forgotten), that books with girl in the title, books about girls and their interests and activities and lives, are not just for girls.  They are for anyone and everyone.  It is a fallacy that boys are not interested in stories about girls and the perpetuation of this myth by parents, teachers, librarians and yes, also peers, is doing a great disservice, to our young men, who are learning their way in this world, and to our young women who need allies for equality.

So check out these titles, think widely and broadly when recommending them and ENJOY!

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Fenway and Hattie

Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe

Fenway and Hattie have always been best buddies.  They play, romp at the dog park and Fenway sleeps cuddled up in Hattie’s mint and vanilla scented bed.  But a big move from the city to a house shakes everything up. Most concerning, Hattie suddenly doesn’t have time for Fenway and seems to be pulling away.

Fenway’s exuberant personality means that’s he’s undaunted.  Despite veiled warnings from the dogs next door, a sad move from Hattie’s cuddly bed to a room with a gate, Fenway is sure he can get his beloved short human back.

Written from Fenway’s point of view, this book will doubtless charm young readers.  The text is fairly simple, meaning it will work well for either K-2 readers who are reading above grade level or 3rd graders.  The point of view will require a lot of inference on the part of students which is a great skill to develop.

Unfortunately, I just didn’t love it.   I wish I had, but I found it slow in parts, pretty repetitive and I wanted bigger plot, bigger goings on. So while I know plenty of young dog lovers that would enjoy it, and it certainly is a welcome break from the likes of the endless Puppy Place series, I would likely only recommend it to readers who already had a love for dogs.

Age Recommendation: Fenway and Hattie is appropriate for all ages, but will probably hold the most interest for students up to age 10.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – Dogs and squirrels are clearly enemies.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

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Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess

Miss Moon: Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill

If you’ve ever thought your child could use a coffee table book this would clearly be the one to own.  I fully expect to see it in Anthropologie’s terribly well curated book section.  High-end precious baby stores should be delicately tucking it into photo shoots, positioned just so in the nursery or child’s room of your dreams. It is just that beautiful.

Certainly there is nothing shocking, groundbreaking or riveting in Miss Moon’s recommendations for good behavior. A brief sentence per page is all we’re afforded. Therefore, it is not the words that will capture readers’ attention or make you wish you could walk directly into a page.  It’s Janet Hill’s exquisite illustrations that do that.  And after you have read the book and admired its beauty, please curb the impulse to rip out the pages and frame them for your walls.  After all, they (and many more dreamy images – I dare you not to fall in love with Lisette and the Skunk) are available for purchase at Janet Hill’s Etsy shop: Janet Hill Studio.  What’s more, they are completely reasonably priced.

I would love to see more from Janet Hill, next time with a rich, perhaps magical plot that offers as much to read as there is to look at.

Side note to teachers:  If anyone still does picture prompts for writing I would retire the masterful yet ubiquitous Chris Van Allsburg pages in favor of some of Hill’s art for a change!

Age Recommendation: Recommended for anyone who likes things of beauty.  The prints could be admired by the youngest baby in a crib and there are certainly adults who might want to place a copy somewhere that both they and their guests could enjoy.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – Bows and arrows are shown.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.

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Pugs of the Frozen North

Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre

There is a certain pitch that elementary school children can achieve when squealing over something particularly adorable or desirable.  I have no doubt that this book would elicit those joyful sounds, which honestly are not so terribly different from the excited yips of the title pugs.

From the winsome illustrations to the evocative language, this is sure to delight readers.  Every two page spread is filled with pictures: bug-eyed pugs, dastardly cartoonish villains, silky yetis, overly primped sled-dogs or our heroes, Sika and Shen.  Readers who are just transitioning up to longer chapter books will enjoy the break that an illustration gives. Everyone else will just be charmed.  The vocabulary in Pugs of the Frozen North is fantastic too!  Just enough words that will challenge readers without tipping it into over complexity.  I would have loved to have readers collect all of the new-to-them words back when I was teaching.  As a parent, I’m just excited about the exposure.

The basic story involves Shen and Sika heading off with an unlikely dog-sled team of sixty-six pugs on a race to the North Pole to see the Snowfather and have a special wish granted. Their competitors are a mix of cartoonishly eeeeevil villains and friendly rivals, all with exotic, fabulous teams of their own.  The race itself is fraught with your usual peril (fake detours) and some unusual peril (wait until you meet the yetis!)  And the end wraps up not quite like you might expect.  All in all it was a joyful read that I could help wishing would be made into a major motion picture.

Age Recommendation: This is absolutely a book that I would recommend for young readers who are way ahead of grade level, so those Kindergarteners and first graders who need a bit of a challenge but want lots of fun in their books as well!  I believe it would hold interest straight up through about fourth grade, but as an adult I also enjoyed the light entertainment, so who knows how old an audience it might capture.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – “idiot”, “scum”,
Death, Violence and Gore – Grandpa raised sled dogs but they got old and died.  Grandpa will also die. There is blood on the snow as adventures fight to be the first to see the Snowfather.  There are some racing mishaps, but all very cartoonish in nature and unconcerning.  Two people in an illustration are fighting.  A Kraken breaks through the ice and attempts to eat the pugs.  It is bitten for its troubles. Yetis are hit by snowballs.  There are some scary snowmen, but the pugs are not scared and soon send them off. Snowtrolls will eat anyone who falls into their clutches. Dogs are in danger of being eaten by trolls.  They are saved.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.


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Gone to the Dogs

Given the giant picture of my dog’s nose pressed inside a book, it’s probably no secret that I love dogs.  But as I have mentioned before, I’m never quite as sold on dog books.  This is probably because when I was growing up (you know, way back before cell phones and personal computers) there were a whole lot of highly regarded dog books that focused mainly on some type of trauma.  I like my dog books like I like my dogs, adorable, feisty, slightly irreverent and obviously, full of fun and mischief.

Lately I’ve been stockpiling some dog books that look like just the thing for carrying me through the end of winter and into spring.  I finally, finally got my hands on Pugs of the Frozen North, managed to win a copy of the ridiculously adorable looking Fenway and Hattie and have a nice little pile of holds accumulating at the library with other canine heroes.  It promises to be a cheerful and furry month.


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37 Things I Love

37 Things I Love (in no particular order) by Kekla Magoon

Since her father’s accident, Ellis and her mother have carefully orchestrated their lives to avoid any serious conversation.  Ellis saves all of that for her dad.  But when the time comes to make a major decision about his future, Ellis finds herself re-examining all of her relationships, from her mother to her friends.

Always on the fringe of the popular crowd due to her best friend Abby, Ellis finds herself more and more aware of Abby’s shortcomings.  She’s also torn between anger and pity as her dear friend Colin continues to be under Abby’s spell.  But with her world turned upside down, Ellis reencounters and reconnects with Cara, who was once was one of her closest friends.  Unlike Abby, Cara seems to have time and energy to focus outside herself and Ellis desperately needs friends who can be there for her.  It’s just that hanging out with Cara takes a sudden turn that Ellis wasn’t expecting.

Far more focused on family and friendship than on romance, 37 Things I Love managed to find the balance between the difficulty of having a parent on life support with the normal drama filled life of a teenager.  A slim 216 pages, I was left wanting more.  I wanted a better vision of how the friendships would move forward.  I wanted more of the romantic plot that had started and then came to an abrupt halt.  I just wanted more.  That’s not a bad thing, it’s really a complement!  I just wasn’t quite ready to leave these characters!

Age Recommendation: This is probably best for high school students although some middle school readers might enjoy it as well.  Parents should be aware of the drinking that goes on in the book, but it is in no way glamorized.  People who drink too much suffer from hangovers and embarrassment, which is probably what normal teenage drinkers can expect anyway.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – The physiques of several boys are discussed.  Teens stare at breasts.  A couple makes out. A teen kisses someone’s cheek.  A teen cannot remember what sexual things she did while drunk.  She has hickeys on her chest.  Two girls hold hands.  One sucks the other’s nipple.  This is not done with consent or after any discussion of feelings. The contact was not expected nor encouraged.
Profanity – “fucked”, “damn”, “God”, “shit”, “darn”, “asshole”, “bitch”, someone flips people off, “fucking”,  “jackass”, “jerk”,
Death, Violence and Gore – A teen grabs a teen’s breast and pretends it was an accident.  It was not. He does not remove his hand.  A teen stuffs her bra with jello and is found out.  She is harassed for this.  A teen’s parent dies.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Teens drink wine. A party involves kegs of beer, the reasons teens drink are briefly mentioned.  There is peer pressure regarding drinking.  Some teens smoke.
Frightening or Intense Things – Ellis has recurring nightmares about falling, possibly related to her father’s bad fall.  Her father is on life support and has been for years.  As the book opens, her mother is contemplating taking him off.

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Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

I’m not big on issues books.  So when I picked a book about integration with a interracial lesbian romance, believe me, I had concerns.  This can’t end well, right?  And getting to the end is going to be pretty painful too?  But I had heard so many good things and I also know that it’s important to go outside your comfort zone sometimes, so I went for it.

First off, it’s important to acknowledge that I am white.  And because of that, my knowledge of integration is pretty basic and I’ve had the privilege and luxury of not having to think beyond the n-word and the photos of menacing crowds, threatening well-dressed black children as they enter their new schools.  Spending time with Lies We Tell Ourselves refuses to let you walk away after day one.  You don’t just see the bravery required on the first day of school. Every single day you spend with Sarah and Ruth and Ennis and Chuck at school is one where every moment is fraught with tension.  Of course, there are a group of instigators responsible for the bulk of the trauma, another group that joins in with taunts and cheers, complicit, but the overwhelming, deafening silence and lack of action on the part of bystanders is mind boggling.  It is the same silence that has stretched across decades to the present day, allowing those who are violent and fueled by hate to run the narrative.

But even though this is a story of integration, it’s also story about two girls, their families, their struggles, their perceptions of themselves.  Although their interactions begin the way you might expect between a black teenager and the white daughter of a hate-spewing newspaper man, they learn that there is more to each of them than what they seem to others.  Their connection is one that is not simple.  Each girl must struggle with her own feelings regarding her sexuality, especially weighty considering the time period.  Sarah in particular is quite religious and does a lot of soul searching about why she hasn’t been punished for her feelings.  Beyond that, there is the question of race.

In the end, this was a book that I could not put down, except for short breaks to get a breather from the tension that Talley builds.  Although it was really hard to read about how difficult integration was for the students, it was also really compelling and impressive to realize their strength.  And the constant push-pull of the relationship will also keep you racing through, waiting to see what happens next.  I won’t spoil the end at all, but I will tell you that things do not end terribly for our heroines.  Lies We Tell Ourselves hardly shirks from violence or hatred, but some secrets are kept, some are spared.

WARNING: Since writing this, I have read many black people’s comments that this book is harmful and hurtful. I defer to their experience completely. If you are black and reviewed this book, I would be happy to link to your review here as your experience far outweighs that of a casual white reviewer.

Age Recommendation: I think this is suitable for Grades 8 and up, probably even a bit younger if you have readers who can handle the violence and tension.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – White parents fear their daughters might “get in trouble” with black teens. A teen has kissed and held hands, but not French-kissed. A teen looks at pictures of girls in swimsuits in a magazine. A high school girl has a 22 year old fiancee. A girl will reportedly “go all the way” with anyone who will give her his football pin.  A girl has never done more than kiss her fiance because he believes a girl who will be his wife deserves more respect. People discuss their dates to a dance.  A teen wouldn’t play seven minutes in heaven. Teens have sexual and romantic feelings towards each other. Two girls kiss.  Girls are told to keep their skirt down and their panties up.  Boys and girls kiss.
Profanity – “n—r” the whole word, no letters omitted is used repeatedly, other racist slurs include “mau maus, tar baies, coons”, “hell”, “God”, adult male blacks are called “boy”, “Dang it”, “shit”, “shut up”, “damn”, “goddamn”, “bullshit”, “bitch”,
Death, Violence and Gore – People are threatened.  Someone throws something at a teen.  People are spit upon.  A teen wishes she could use a knife to slice someone’s tongue in two.  People are pushed, shoved, physically bullied. A teen is injured on her neck.  People are tripped. People are poked with pencils, nearly to the point of bleeding.  They are threatened with violence. There’s mention of a black boy down in Mississippi who was killed for being with a white girl.  A teen has milk poured all over her.  A teen is tripped and then surrounded.  People are kicked.  There are threats of setting people on fire.  There are legitimate fears of lynching.  Rocks, sticks and pencils are thrown at the black students. Students have gum spit at them. Students receive death threats. A white male grabs the breasts of a black teen.  A father draws back his hand to hit his child, but does not strike. A teen is hit in the back of the neck with a baseball.  Most witnesses laugh.  White throw bottle caps, trying to slice the skin of their targets. The violent murder of Emmett Till is described, that he was beaten, shot, his eye gouged out and that he was thrown in a river. He was 14.  This recounting is a true story.  A cross is set on fire in a black teens yard. Teens have a legitimate fear of being lynched, hung.  An adult tells of a time a black man was accused of theft and was beaten so badly he never walked again.  A teen raises his arm to defend himself after being hit and is beaten by at least 15 others. They use a bucket to break his ribs and continue the beating with a mop handle.  His nose is broken, his face bloody.  His whole body is bloody.  He has broken bones and took a blow to the head.  When he is taken to the hospital they are unsure if he will ever regain consciousness.  A teen is given a note showing a lynching as a threat. A man hits his child.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – An adult has a glass of sherry. Adults have a drink.  A teen smokes cigarettes. An adult smokes cigarettes.  A teen has been drinking. Men smoke pipes.
Frightening or Intense Things – A school is about to be integrated and the black students are rightfully concerned about the harassment and violence they are likely to face.  Some white girls scream when black teens walk past.  There is a lot of talk about white superiority, what black brains can and can’t handle, how they will bring down social standards.  It’s a lot of explicit racism, the kind white people might like to think doesn’t happen but is foundation of a society than continually represses minorities.  There is also discussion of racial purity and the need to keep the races from intermarrying and having children.  White students urinate on a black teens seat.

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Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel

Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel: A Novel by Sara Farizan

Sara Farizan does an amazing job of capturing high school romantic angst; from the unrequited crush to the captivating newcomer, from misread signs to the one who’s been there all along, Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel really has it all.

But there’s a lot more going on here than just a romance. Leila is not just trying to figure out how to tell people that she likes girls.  And she’s not just trying to figure out if a certain girl is right for her.  She’s also trying to figure out how to manage her parents’ expectations, her seemingly perfect sister and what types of activities actually interest her. It’s a true picture of high school, trying to find someone and find yourself all at the same time.

Farizan also does a masterful job at depicting a high school that is filled with the types of kids that actually go to high school.  Kids with different backgrounds, social cliques based on assumptions, the capricious nature of friendship, it’s all here.  I particularly was impressed with the amount of casual racism.  While this is clearly not the main focus of the book, Farizan makes it obvious that this is very much a part of life.  The peer pressure here was also subtle but impressive.  As in life, it’s not always a group of people actually standing around saying “come on, do it”.  So much more common is the way that teens just fall into things to please a friend or love interest, without even giving it much thought.

Great for: This is a great choice for someone who wants to read about girls crushing, kissing, stressing out, misreading cues and falling for each other.  While issues like coming out are covered, this is not a weighty or heavy book.  It is an absolute treat to read.  And as such, it would make a lovely Valentine’s present (look at that cover, it’s practically wrapping paper)!

Age Recommendation: Middle school and up.  There’s no onscreen sex and the one use of the f word is censored part way through.  I’d say as soon as kids are really interested in reading about romantic relationships, this would work.  I do think some parents may want to address the choices teens make regarding cigarettes and alcohol, but that’s pretty much it.

Sex, Nudity, Dating – A teen wants a girlfriend.  A teen speculates that another teen is seeing a teacher and that two teachers are dating each other.  Two teens kiss, tongues are mentioned.  Two teens dance “grinding”.  A teen scratches his balls.  A bong is penis-shaped. People make out at a party.  Two people discuss sex (not with each other, just about how it changes).  A teen says that she and her boyfriends “mate like rabbits”.  A teen offers to order an adult movie. Teens kiss. Two teens have sex, one is a virgin.  A teen complains her partner has little stamina and prefers a certain position.
Profanity – “shit”, “screwed”, “goddamn”, “bitch”,  “shut up”, “sucks,” “assholes”, “dyke”, “fu-“, “damn”, “hell”, “ass”,
Death, Violence and Gore – A teen’s brother died in a car accident. A teen is harassed for coming out.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – A teen drinks Gatorade mixed with vodka during school. A party for teens involves people chugging beers, drinks that will become spiked.  Adults drink wine with dinner.  Teens drink mixed drinks.  One of these teens has never had more than a sip of champagne prior to this. They get drunk.  At a party, a girl takes hits from a bong.  Teens smoke cigarettes. A teen snorts Adderall. A teen drinks from a flask. A teen vomits from drinking to excess.
Frightening or Intense Things – A college student is seen kissing someone of the same gender which forced him to come out to his parents.  They choose to kick him out.  A teen mentions there are parts of the world where people are imprisoned or even killed for being gay.  Public outing.

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The Summer I Wasn’t Me

The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi

We’ve probably all familiar with the premise teen goes to camp and falls in love. But The Summer I Wasn’t Me offers a very different twist as the camp in question is a religious “de-gayifying” retreat.

After Lexi’s father passes away, her mother slips into a deep depression.  When her mother discovers Lexi’s feelings for a girl in town, it seems like this news will shatter their tenuous grip on each other.  Desperate to hold what’s left of her family together, Lexi is willing to accept her mother’s plan to cure her of her gayness.  Raised in a church going community, the religious camp serves to reinforce many of the messages she’s been given her whole life.  What Lexi doesn’t count on is that one of the other campers will be the most beautiful girl she’s ever seen,  a girl who undoubtedly also likes girls.

The summer yields friendships, so much romantic longing and no actual curing of homosexual feelings, but it also uncovers some very dark secrets.

Since I’m reviewing this as a potential Valentine-y love-y read, I can say that it certainly delivers on the longing and the mounting tension.  There are so many delicious moments where you wait, wondering if now is when things will start to happen.  And of course, as is a requirement for a true romance, there is a happily ever after.

However, those dark secrets?  Well, they do bring the book down a bit.  They serve to fully discredit the idea of a camp being able to change someone’s sexual preferences, but it is done through a very dramatic and violent turn of events. I’ll use a spoiler, but I would strongly encourage everyone to read the spoiler.

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

Sex, Nudity, Dating – Counselors watch kids unpack to make sure they don’t have any “homosexual pornography” with them. People date people of the same gender. A teen reports having been seen in an “inventive position” with a partner.  There’s discussion of same sex marriage (in the book it is not legal nationally as it is currently). Lube is mentioned but not in conjunction with any sexual act. Leviticus is quoted in Chapter 15, including “you must not have sexual intercourse with a man as one has sexual intercourse with a woman”. Two girls kiss during a game of spin the bottle.  Tongues are involved.  The kiss is in front of an audience and one of the participants meant it only for the benefit of the audience.  Campers are advised to avoid satanic influences by not masturbating.  Two teen girls shared the same bed.  A teen had a year long relationship with a same sex partner.  Two teens kiss.  Teens touch under their shirts.
Profanity – Lexi reports that “gay” and “fag” are used as slurs at her school. “crap”, “hell”, “screw you”, “fucking”, “God”, “Jesus Christ”, “Asshole”,
Death, Violence and Gore – Lexi’s father has passed away prior to the start of the book. We learn later it was from pancreatic cancer. An 11 year old is hit across the face by someone he has kissed. A teen is routinely beaten by a parent. Leviticus (a Bible book) states that men engaging in sexual intercourse with other men should be put to death.  A teen was sexually abused by a cousin. An adult in a position of power threatens a teen.  He demands sexual favors.  The teen is able to use violence to escape but is forced to kiss the adult first. There is every reason to believe that this is a pattern of predatory behavior. A teen is violently beaten under the guise of it being an “exorcism”. The teen is refused medical care after this incident.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Teens drank beer (does not occur on page, just a reference to past behavior). A teen’s father is a heavy drinker.  Drugs are mentioned.  Teens drink vodka and get drunk.  A teen mentions drinking beer and mulled wine in the past.
Frightening or Intense Things – Lexi’s mother suffers from depression.  A teen is faced with being kicked out of his home due to his sexual orientation.

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