recently read a review of Mary-Lou Zeitoun's 13 in which the author of the review debated whether or not this book is suitable for a thirteen year old to read.
This is an interesting question to think about after reading this book. I can see why the review's author spent the entire time discussing the possible answers. On one hand, you could say yes. On the other, no.
Yes because it's a realistic portrait of life as a thirteen-year-old girl. It deals with all the issues girls at that age have to deal with. Maturity. Puberty. Boys. Love. Friends. Each is covered in a realistic way through the eyes of the story's heroine, Marnie Harmon.
Zeitoun does an excellent job of throwing you into the mind of a new teen girl in 1980. Marnie is like any girl you've ever known at that age. She deals with her growing feelings towards boys and her gradual departure from youth and those friends and into teenage-hood and all new friends.
There is a lot of "end of innocence" in this book too. Marnie finds herself getting into situations where she feels awkward, but other girls are doing it, so should she?
Marnie debates her life and the life her parents have mapped out for her and finds that as she grows older, she is able to mould her own fate. By hanging out with a cooler crowd than she used to hang with, Marnie finds that people begin to notice her more and she can be accepted into cliques. Not like her old friends.
"I looked back at St. Joe's as I was walking home. I would not miss that beaten white building. I would not miss the windows bleeding rust and the industrial road in front of it. The dark inside me lifted, as, for the first time in my life it occurred to me I could start completely over."
This book acts almost as a manual for the most important, pivotal year in a girl's life.
Now. The reasons a thirteen year old should not read this book.
The big one in my opinion is that is also not an accurate portrayal of a thirteen year old. I know times are changing and girls are getting into drugs and sex at earlier and earlier ages, but I found this book more oriented towards kids in major cities. This book might give them some ideas.
This book takes place in Ottawa in 1980 and might not apply to smaller communities. It's realistic in the portrayal of characters and their thoughts and reasons for doing what they were doing at the time. But not today.
It's hard to review this book really. Should kids read it? Yes. But not at thirteen. Give them a couple years. Fifteen maybe. Then they're a little more mature to realize that this book they have to read in grade nine English surprisingly mirrors their own lives at the time.
Maybe they'll learn something from it.
published by Porcupine's Quill