PerversePerverse by Larry Rodness
ITOH Press

As a second generation Goth, even Gothic life for Emylene is weird. Not weird. Perverse! While she enjoys her position in her community as a Goth princess, she doesn’t always see her spoiled and self-centered behavior and how it impacts others. When she inadvertently frees a mysterious girl from a charcoal sketch found in a dismal antique shop, Emylene’s world begins to shift. Her parents are barely recognizable and what’s the deal with her friends at her nightly club hangout?

Too late, Emylene realizes her new friend is not what she seems. As events spiral out of control, Emylene finds new allies to face the terror she is partly responsible for releasing. It will take all their strength and cunning to stop the creatures controlling her hometown.

Rodness creates a complex and feisty young girl with smarts and spunk in spades. Emylene grapples with her newfound adulthood and its challenges in familiar and entertaining ways. Narrative and plot are not as well-constructed as the characters, however. The narrative wanders out of one point of view and into another without ceremony or pattern. Scattered rants about the misconceptions the mainstream population has about the gothic community were sometimes off-putting rather than insightful. One character hijacks the story and inserts a long (several chapters) narrative of his own. Still, Rodness uses some interesting bits of folklore and introduces readers to a strange magical picture, creating a story world worthy of the genre.

Language Content
Moderate profanity.

Sexual Content
References (without description) to some teen sexual experimentation girl-on-girl. In one scene, Emylene is incapacitated by a villain and made to experience sexual pleasure. She is later found by a young man who fantasizes about having sex with her, whether or not she is willing. Other brief references to aberrant sexual practices.

Spiritual Content
Brief mention of solstice celebrations and Wiccan traditions.

Violence
Some brief scenes of fatal violence.

Drug Content
References to bad parts of town including drug trafficking, but no drug use among characters.

 

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julie_kagawa_the_immortal_rulesIn a world ruled by vampires, Allison Sekemoto survives by staying hidden and scavenging for food. When hunger forces her to venture outside the safety of home, she is attacked and offered a choice: to die or become what she hates most. A vampire.

Allie struggles to learn vampire ways and accept and what her new form means to the humans she has left behind. Another attack forces her to flee from the city and into the wild where she will be stalked by rabids, diseased and deadly creatures. But Allie isn’t the only one braving those wilds. In the night, she comes upon a group of humans on a quest to find a legendary city. A safe haven for humans. A city without vampires. Allie vows to protect them on their journey, but can she really succeed when the deadliest threat is her own hunger?

Kagawa sends her readers plummeting through a masterfully woven plot into a post-apocalyptic world in which humans are ruled by vampires and stalked by rabids. While heroine Allie seems cold-hearted and indifferent at the story’s opening, it is in her vampire form that she develops love for others, creating an intriguing paradox.

Language Content
No F-bombs, but other curses peppered throughout.

Sexual Content
Insinuations, but no graphic content.

Spiritual Content
Allison encounters a group who are people of faith. Precisely what they believe isn’t deeply explored, but faith is portrayed as a very admirable and positive thing, even if such optimism is hard for Allison to understand. In Kagawa’s world, vampires may be either good or evil, depending on their relationship with the living. They will either abuse and dominate or perhaps struggle to check their power and thirst and protect humans.

Violence
Lots of violence. Creatures called rabids, human and animal, viciously pursue and devour any they can capture. Some references to past torture.

Drug Content
Random guy drinks a beer.

Poll Question: Should Christian teens read books about characters of spritually questionable origin?

  • Maybe. Mature kids can discern the truth without being spiritually compromised. Other kids aren’t ready. (4 votes)
  • Yes. Reading about a vampire doesn’t do any harm. It’s just fantasy! (2 votes)
  • No way. The origin of vampires isn’t “questionable.” It’s evil. Don’t even go there. (2 votes)

(Didn’t get to vote? Click to view this week’s poll and add your vote!)

My Vote
I’ll be honest– this is a tricky one for me. When I began this blog and posted my first poll, a friend left several comments on my facebook account about teen fiction and what it should and should not contain and she said two very key words: age-appropriate. (maybe that’s technically one word, hyphenated…)

I think there’s something to that. Absolutely. In the case of Neil Gaiman’s book, we’re talking about a story set in a graveyard with a small child as a character. (I’m so resisting the urge to revisit that too often quoted line from the movie that will haunt Haley Joel Osmet for the rest of his life.) I’m not sure this is what I’d call appropriate content for middle grade readers. It’s an intensely dark story. (A beautifully written one, but dark nonetheless.) I mean let’s talk reality here for one second– kid grows up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts… anyone see a complex coming for little Bod? Okay, I know, it’s just fiction…(I’m the girl who loved the movie Meet Joe Black, but came away at the end thinking, dude, that guy is going to have one serious complex.)

But I know for myself, as a young reader, stories inspired me and even to a degree became a part of me in a deeper way than my reading does today. I think young readers moreso than older ones tend to idolize the characters they read about. Does reading The Graveyard Book encourage a fascination with death and the dead?

Here’s another interesting thought from a blog I read this morning. She blogged concerning Bella and Edward’s relationship and its similarities to abusive/co-dependent relationships. Is this a relationship we want teens to emulate?

Honestly, I think the romance genre itself often does a poor job presenting a healthy view of a romantic relationship. I have seen it even in Christian fiction. But that’s another topic altogether!

One of the things I liked about the Twilight series is that purity was important to Edward and that he and Bella waited until their marriage to consumate their relationship. In a culture where sexual purity is so out of style, it was exciting to me to see a YA series promoting abstinence take the bestseller list by storm.

They say it takes a town to raise a child. Or in this case, a graveyard.

After his family are murdered by a stranger named Jack, a toddler escapes to a graveyard where he is adopted by a pair of ghosts who name him Nobody. A vampire speaks up as Bod’s guardian, eventually sharing this responsibility with a werewolf.  Bod befriends other ghost children and even a witch buried on unconsecrated ground near the graveyard. But the mysterious man who murdered his family still seeks him and intends to finish the task he set out to do the night Bod came to live in the graveyard. Bod and his friends must find out who this man is and why he is determined to kill Bod before it’s too late.

Neil Gaiman recently received the Newberry medal for The Graveyard Book and has also been nominated for the Hugo award. The characters are well-crafted, memorable and endearing, but the story is very dark. The book trailer above shows some of the illustrations found in the book.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Language
None

Sexual Content
None

Spiritual Content
Ghosts, ghouls, a vampire, werewolf, and a witch are included in the story’s cast of characters and save Bod from harm. Bod literally lives among the crypts and tombs of the graveyard and spends most of his life among the dead (and undead?).

Violence
The story opens after a man has murdered Bod’s parents and sibling. While the murders themselves are not graphically described, the killer is cold, complacent about their deaths, even the death of the other child. He intends to kill Bod as well, though he is only six months old at the time. While not graphic, the nature of those intentions seemed harsh to me.

Drug Content
None

Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

At last– the moment Twilight fans have dreamed of: Edward and Bella marry and retreat to a private island for a honeymoon. When it becomes obvious that Bella is pregnant– and with an extraordinary child– the couple returns home to care for Bella and possibly even protect her from the child in her womb. But the only way to save Bella may be to transform her.

When the dreaded Volturi close in on the Cullen Family, presumably to kill the child, Bella commits to do whatever it takes to protect the child she saw in her dreams. As the battle looms nearer, it becomes clear to Bella that she has more strength than even she gave herself credit for. But will it be enough to protect her new family from total destruction?

Language
There was a little bit more swearing in this novel compared to the first. Light bordering moderate.

Sexual Content
So now that Edward and Bella are married, the party is on. Meyer does a fair job keeping the details of Bella and Edward’s sex life strictly between them. Hints about it are dropped, and the room is damaged, but there’s no play by play description of the events that occur.

Spiritual Content
Largely the same as the other Twilight books. The Edward Cullen and his family are “good” vampires who’ve chosen only to feed on animals, not humans. They are at odds with the “bad” vampires who consider themselves superior to the human race and still kill/bite people. Werewolves emerge to protect the people of Forks, WA.

Violent Content
The Volturi are as ruthless as ever, destroying one vampire in the midst of a conflict. The baby emerging from Bella is a little graphic.

Drug Content
None.

Eclipse by Stephenie MeyerOnce again Bella Swan’s life is in danger, seemingly because of her association with the Cullen family. Strange events unfold in nearby Seattle– a mass of unsolved murders. Could there be “newborn” vampires on the loose?

As rumor of the “newborn” vampires spreads, a new rumor reaches the Cullen clan. The powerful Volturi, to whom Bella has promised to shed her mortality and become a vampire, appear to be planning a visit to the town of Forks. As Bella seeks to get her promise met, she discovers she must make a difficult choice. If she becomes a vampire, she loses Jacob, her best friend. If she remains mortal, Edward will watch her grow old and die.

Language
There was a little bit more swearing in this novel compared to the first. Light bordering moderate.

Sexual Content
Still very little physical sexual contact at all. Huge amounts of romantic tension between them, though. Bella and Edward’s desire for each other is very obvious.

Spiritual Content
Largely the same as Twilight and New Moon. The Edward Cullen and his family are “good” vampires who’ve chosen only to feed on animals, not humans. They are at odds with the “bad” vampires who consider themselves superior to the human race and still kill/bite people. Werewolves emerge to protect the people of Forks, WA.

Violent Content
The Volturi are as ruthless as ever, destroying one vampire in the midst of a conflict. The werewolf clan takes on a vampire.

Drug Content
None.

New Moon by Stephenie MeyerThe sequel to Twilight, New Moon picks up a few months after its predecessor. It’s Bella’s birthday, and despite her wishes that there be no fuss, the Cullen family make quite an occasion of it. But the party spawns a sequence of events that shatters Bella’s world. She finds herself alone, feeling as if a gaping hole exists through the center of her very being. As she struggles to cope, and to carve out some semblance of life around the edges of her wound, she at last finds a friend. But when battle lines are drawn again, she finds herself torn between mortal enemies, and she must choose between them.

Language
There was a little bit more swearing in this novel compared to the first. Light bordering moderate.

Sexual Content
Still very little physical sexual contact at all. Huge amounts of romantic tension between them, though. Bella and Edward’s desire for each other is very obvious.

Spiritual Content
Largely the same as Twilight. The hero and his family are “good” vampires who’ve chosen only to feed on animals, not humans. They are at odds with the “bad” vampires who consider themselves superior to the human race and still kill/bite people. In New Moon, werewolves also emerge. In the story their abilities are used to protect the people of Forks, WA.

Violent Content
A powerful vampire clan brings a victim in to feast on. Another plot appears to be underway to kill Bella.

Drug Content
None.