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Book review: Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials by Rosalind Wiseman

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"Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials" by Rosalind Wiseman. Published 2010 by G.P. Putman’s Sons.

Ideal for teen girls aged 13-16, the book "Boys, Girls and Other Hazardous Materials" by Rosalind Wiseman delivers a page-turning plot which will keep even the most reluctant reader gripped. In addition to providing great entertainment, this superb novel compels teen readers to address the question of whether all school traditions are good traditions just because they have been acceptable in the past.

The book is told through the eyes of the main character, Charlotte Healey, known as Charlie. A freshman in a new school, she has to deal with a first day at a place where she doesn’t know anyone else. Later, just when things are looking good, frenemies from the past start catching up with her new life. Can Charlie stand up to them? Can she stand up to the other issues she faces at this school, at the possible cost of her rising popularity?

Unlike many teen novels where the action culminates at the homecoming ball, Rosalind Wiseman’s fast-moving plot makes the homecoming dance a highlight but not the culmination of the book. Ms. Wiseman piles on more action, consequences and excitement through Charlie’s eventful life well beyond the homecoming dance. The biggest moral dilemma posed in the book is seen through Charlie’s eyes, where this heroine has to choose between telling an adult about a life-threatening situation she saw or protect her friend who was doing it. With no room for middle ground in this question of ethics, this book forces teen readers to address this type of dilemma in their own minds as well.

For whom is this book designed?

Teen girls will love the way the book carries fast-paced action throughout the plot, and the way the moral questions are introduced gradually without heavy-handedness. Occasional plot-relevant flashbacks to Charlie’s past years in middle school will captivate readers at the younger end of the spectrum who are about to enter high school, while still appealing to older readers who have moved well beyond their freshman years.

Which reader’s personality type will resonate with Charlie’s? Charlie at the beginning of the book is more of a go-with-the-flow follower than a leader. She becomes a stronger person better able to stand up for her beliefs during the course of the book. However, her overall character is still that of a fairly “mainstream” personality, so it’s important to be aware that very free-spirited readers may not identify so well with Charlie.

Parents will approve of the relatively ‘clean’ plot and the nature of the serious moral issues raised in this entertaining young adult novel.

The bottom line is…

Overall, this superb book is geared toward teen girls aged 13-16. This novel is certain to go over well with enthusiastic as well as reluctant readers due to its enthralling plot and strong message.

You might also like to take a look at our list of most disturbing books for young adults.

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