Monday, June 12th, 2017

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Teen Lit Review Content Rating Scale

All books are rated for suitability using the scale below. Books are rated 1 through 5 with 5 being the highest rating or least offensive. We realize different parents as well as different reviewers may have opposing views on a books rating. This is one reason we developed the scale. However, if you have a differing opinion about a book, please feel free to comment in a respectful manner. We hope that the scale below will be of benefit to everyone. If you have any doubt in the appropriateness of a book for your child, we recommend you read the book yourself.

5 (best rating): minimal reservations, promotion of good values in general, age-appropriate, no language, no sexual detail (other than mild kissing but only for books ages 12 and up), mild violence without much detail

4: some reservations, mild language (only words found in the Bible: d***, a**, h***), mild disregard for authority, mild romantic/sexual detail with promotion of Christian values, some rude or crude behavior or comic mischief, mild to moderate violence with more detail, non-glamorized use of alcohol or drugs

3: moderate language (more frequent use of d***, a**, h*** and any use of b***h or b*****d), moderate sexual detail (such as deep kissing, mild talk (or intent) of sexual situations other than kissing), moderate crude language, more intense sequences of violence with blood

2: coarse language (any use of the word s***), intense sensuality/passion, some detail of sexual situations, some graphic violence

1: may be too offensive to recommend, explicit sexual situations, frequent course language (and any use of the words f*** or G*** d***), extreme graphic violence and horror, encourages/glamorizes underage drinking or drug use, extreme disregard for Christian values

Shortlisted: Books we chose not to finish due to content. These books are definitely not recommended.

The Mistmantle Chronicles: The Urchin of the Riding Stars  

Title: Mistmantle Chronicles, The: Urchin of the Riding Stars – Book #1 (Mistmantle Chronicles)

Author: M. I. McAllister
CBA or ABA? ABA (American Book Association)
Primary Audience/age group: 9 12 yrs. Old
Genre: Fantasy/Action
# Of pages: 228
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3
Rating: 3.5 of 5
Recommend? Yes, see below

Description: from Publishers Weekly
The first book in the Mistmantle Chronicles introduces a mystical, medieval island and its anthropomorphic woodland denizens. The hedgehog King Brushen rules the island of Mistmantle and his squirrel, otter, mole and hedgehog subjects. The mists that surround the island give it its name, and also hide it from outsiders-except for one pregnant squirrel who finds her way to its shores in time to give birth to a child of prophecy (“He will bring down a powerful ruler”) before she dies. Crispin, a squirrel who serves as one of the king’s Captains, discovers the baby on the shore and names him Urchin. The young squirrel is thrilled when Crispin, “[his] hero,” later asks Urchin to be his page. But Urchin’s joy is short-lived when the king’s young son is murdered, and-by an arcane system of drawing lots-Crispin is determined to be the murderer. Urchin, the otter Padra (his new master) and other loyal subjects strive to uncover the conspirators set on overthrowing King Brushen. ” `And, Urchin,’ Padra added quietly, `whatever those sharp squirrel ears pick up, be careful of repeating anything…. I know Crispin was innocent and so do you…. But there is danger in high places on this island.’ ” Urchin and his young friends make friendly, virtuous heroes, and younger readers may well look forward to their future adventures. Ages 8-up. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Review: I found The Urchin of the Riding Stars to be an exciting read. It was a bit heavy on description, but I think it was necessary to give a mental picture of the island and the characters. I was drawn in to the life on the mysterious island and enjoyed getting to know the characters. Urchin appeals to the underdog in us all. If your child enjoyed the Redwall series, they will like this too. Following are events/circumstances in the book that I believe may be cause for concern to some parents:

This book had a clear good versus bad story line. The heroes make the right choices in the face of tough circumstances. There are great lessons in loyalty, character, and standing up for what is good and right.

Spiritual Elements:
The good guy, Urchin is a child of prophecy. He has been born to save the village from an evil king. At one point they cast lots to determine who murdered one of the characters.

One of the bad guys in the story orders all weak/deformed animals born to be culled (killed). A few fights or battle scenes, but nothing gory.Language: No Bad Language

Sexual Content:

The bad guys drug the good guys with wine in place of water.

Recommend: I will allow my 12 year old to read this book. I felt like the story was a clear, classic good against evil plot. I would suggest the book be read by 10 and up. I wish the references to wine werent included and will discuss that with myson.

The Hunger Games

By Reviewer Rachel (aged 18)
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult

Genre: Adventure

# Of pages: 382

Publisher: Scholastic Press
Year of Release: 2008
Part of a Series? Yes, 1 of 3 (Hunger Games series)
Rating: 3 View Scale
Recommend? Yes but with Reservations

Review of Catching Fire (Book 2) and Mockingjay (Book 3)

Description: Pamen, what once was North America, is now twelve districts ruled by the harsh Capital. Every year the Capital makes each district give one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to the Hunger Games. The kids are put into an arena to fight to the death, and the victor is rewarded with riches. When Katniss sister is chosen to play in the games, Katniss, seeing the games as a death sentence, offers to take her place. She is accepted, and she goes to meet her fate. She has survived death once before, but will she survive it again?

Review: When I read the book’s cover, I was very hesitant. The book didnt sound like the kind of book I would enjoy, and it seemed like it was going to be very violent. However, when I read the book I was amazed! It wasnt morbid, and it kept me interested. It was highly suspenseful, yet it had some comic relief in it. I found that I got teary eyed at some places and was laughing at others

Rating: 3 for violence and drinking.

Positive: Gale and Katniss care for each other, and when one is in need, the other helps her get through it. There are numerous times when Katniss and Peeta try to save the others from death.

Spiritual Elements: None

Violence: This book is about an area with 24 kids in it fighting to the death, so naturally its going to get violent. However, since it is from Katniss point of view, we dont see that many deaths. There are a few, however. Two scenes that I found to be the most violent are when Katniss is having hallucinations of decaying dead bodies and when she sees a boy being eaten by mutant wolves. Most of the killings in the book are not described in great detail, but death is certainly prominent.

Language: none

Sexual Content: There is a lot of kissing, and Katniss and Peeta sleep together to keep warm.

Other: Haymitch is a HUGE alcoholic. In almost every scene he is drunk.

Recommendation: The Hunger Games is definitely for young adults. Children would probably be scared by the violence. However, for the story line, Collins kept the violence to a minimal. The other problem I had with it was Haymitchs drinking problem, but other than that I enjoyed the book a lot. It was well written and definitely worth reading.

Pretties (Uglies Book 2)

Title: Pretties (Uglies Trilogy, Book 2)
Author: Scott Westerfield
Primary Audience/age group: Young Adult
Genre: Science Fiction
# Of pages:384
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year of Release: 2005
Part of a Series? Yes, 2 of 4
Rating: 2 (View Scale)
Recommend? Yes with ReservationsRead reviews of book 1, Uglies, and book 3, Specials

Description: From Book Cover: Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she’s completely popular. It’s everything she’s ever wanted.
But beneath all the fun — the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom — is a nagging sense that something’s wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally’s ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what’s wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.
Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life — because the authorities don’t intend to let anyone with this information survive.

Review: Tallys story continues. Now that shes become pretty, things dont seem quite as important to her anymore. Will she be able to overcome what has been forced on her? This sequel is as quick-paced and attention-grabbing as the first as you grow more with the character of Tally Youngblood. Again, the book has some very positive and timely messages for older teens and young adults but with a few more reservations.

Rating: 2 for violence and underage drinking

Positive: The characters come to realize that being pretty-minded isnt that gratifying. In fact, being so caught up in your own beauty and others as well as living the party lifestyle is quite empty and limits your choices in life. Other positive themes in the book include the value of friendship, loyalty and not leaving friends behind as well as fighting for the greater good and that its ok to be yourself.

Spiritual Elements: A group of hunters find Tally in the woods and believe she is a god because thats what theyve been led to believe by the authorities in Tallys city. She goes along with it for awhile, but eventually tells the hunters the truth.

Violence: One disturbing scene in the book is when a group of pretties, those who have undergone the operation to become pretty, cut their arms with knives in order to make themselves think more clearly. *Please read the recommendation below.*

The tribe of hunters that Tally come in contact with are considered savages who are at war with a group called the Outsiders. Each group has killed members of the opposite party. We are given a glimpse into the mind of the holy man in the tribe who is set on avenging his fathers death by killing an Outsider although this does not happen. It is made very clear that murder of any kind is wrong.

Language: There are several instances of the word h*** and a couple instances of the expression p***ed off.

Sexual Content: Two of the main characters are in a relationship, and they kiss on several occasions. Tally remembers a conversation she had with another friend who advised her not to have sex with the first pretty she likes. She does consider having sex with her boyfriend, but it is not made clear as to whether she does or not. I was quite shocked when Tally wakes up in her boyfriends bedroom, and he isnt wearing a shirt. The scene really seemed out of place to me, and it is made clear that she spends the night there every night. There is no mention of kissing or sex or any sexual detail related to this scene, but you are left to make your own conclusions.

Another male character goes to alert Tally of danger and finds she is naked, taking a bath. But, there is nothing sexual about the scene.

Other: Tally and her friends are living in New Pretty Town where partying every night with alcohol is the norm. However, they come to realize that drinking keeps them from being able to make their own decisions. Alcohol is part of the setting of New Pretty Town. It is used to keep the New Pretties from remembering their pasts, when they had choices, and from going against the authorities. There are more mentions of alcohol in this book than in books 1 or 3.

Recommendation: Book 2 by far has the most reservations for me, and I had to drop the rating to a 2 and increase the recommendation age to at least 15 because of the topics covered. My two biggest issues were the number of times alcohol use was mentioned and Tally spending the night with her boyfriend. I did feel that alcohol use was part of building the scenes, and the book did have a redeeming quality of the two main characters seeing the negative side of allowing alcohol to rule their lives.

Tallys relationship with her boyfriend is a bigger part of the plot this time, but I felt it was overshadowed by the bigger picture finding a way to free themselves from anothers views that have been forced upon them. If you do allow your teen to read the series, I would encourage you to discuss making good Christian choices in regards to underage drinking and appropriate behavior with the opposite sex. Succumbing to alcohol can have a devastating effect on young lives for years to come. Also, allowing oneself to get into tempting situations with the opposite sex can also make it harder to say no to sex before marriage. God calls us to live holy lives and be set apart from the standards of this world.

Romans 12: 1-2 NIV states, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will.

Another reservation I had was teens cutting themselves in the book. This real psychological problem has been highlighted in the media recently although I do believe that the act in the book has some differences than the real disorder. However, this still may be a concern for some parents who are dealing with the issue in their teenager. There is only one scene in the book where the cutting occurs, but it happens more often and in greater detail in the third book, Specials.

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy

Title: Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls)
Author: Ally Carter
Primary Audience/age group: Teen
Genre: Spy
# Of pages: 236
Year of Release: 2007
Part of a Series? Yes, 2 of 2 (so far)
Rating: 4Description: Cammie Morgan is back for another semester at her ultra-secret spy school. Now that shes broken it off with Josh, shes made a commitment to not put her classmates in danger again. But when she finds out that her teachers are hiding secrets themselves, will she test the limits or keep her promise?Review: I enjoyed this extension of the very fun first novel, Id Tell You I Love You, But Then Id Have to Kill You, even more. Cammie still has her wit but seems to have learned from her previous mistakes. Plus, there are some very interesting new characters.

Positive: Cammie has decided that shes going to stop lying and sneaking around except when its for her training. She wont let another boy or anything else for that matter come between she, her friends, family, and matters of national security again. As a result of her previous actions the school has tightened up security and Cammie is taken to secret headquarters to experience first-hand what happens to a spy for stepping out of boundaries.

Spiritual Elements: The schools motto is Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free. The Bible is not referenced here, but Cammie knows the motto by heart.

Violence: While in secret headquarters, Cammie and her mother are told that a small bomb has been planted on them and will detonate it they violate security. It was actually a joke.

A rumor going around school is that Cammies mom once killed a man with a copy of People magazine.

One of Cammies classmates bloodies her nose with a can of Pringles. There are a few mild physical combat scenes including one where a teacher is knocked out cold and his face is bleeding.

Language: none

Sexual Content: A humorous list is made with the girls wandering what Mr. Solomon looks like without his shirt on. Cammies classmates help her get ready for a date with one commenting that she has to look sexy for her date when in actuality shes not really wearing anything sexy. Headmistress Morgan is referred to as a smokin babe by members of the boys school. There is one kiss attempt and one actual kiss.

Other: Maceys dad isnt very understanding and believes she cheated to get As and Bs in her classes. Macey plans to get back at him by getting all As.

Cammies mom is keeping something from her. She and the other teachers lied about why the East Wing is closed. Cammie makes a point that adults and teachers dont always tell the truth. She thinks about sneaking into the East Wing but has second thoughts since she promised her mom she wouldnt sneak around anymore. However, she and the other girls later sneak in.

The girls are required to attend a ball along with the guys from the boys school. Cammie wears a strapless dress that causes her bra to unhitch while she is dancing. She runs out only to be followed by Zach who never realizes what has happened even when Cammie has to kick the bra out of his site.

Rating: 4 for some mildly sexual humor and mild violence mentioning blood. I didnt feel it was extreme enough to warrant a lower rating.

Recommendation: Cammie does end up breaking her promise of not sneaking around although she didnt put any secrets in danger of being revealed this time. Overall, I thought it had an even better storyline than the first book. I absolutely loved the new twist to the story. I still would recommend age 15 and above but with a lot less reservations. I think I enjoyed it better, in part, for that reason.