I've seen several different lists of or requests for recommendations recently, either YA books with strong female characters or YA books which have good handling of same-sex relationships between women, or both. There's a lot of demand for this, and I would love to be able to call attention to GILLIAN'S EYE. Certainly it has strong women (there is only one significant male character in the book, and he's only "onstage" in two chapters) and same-sex relationships. There's only one problem. I honestly can't tell if the book is suitable for teen or tween readers.

When I was a tween and was getting through life mostly via the stacks of books I would haul home every week or so from the public library, I had special dispensation from my mother to check out books from the grown-up stacks as well as the children and YA areas. I think it was largely self-defense for her; I went through the other books too quickly and it was easier to answer an uncomfortable question now and then than deal with me running out of books. But it means I genuinely have no idea what's considered suitable material, or what qualifies as an acceptable prose difficulty level. I should think usually the answer is "it depends on the kid," which isn't a helpful answer.

I suppose the only thing I can do is itemize.


There are six central characters in this book: Two girls, both fifteen years old; two women in their mid to late twenties; and two women approaching fifty. The girls will obviously be the main draw for a reader their age, and only about a third of the book is closely concerned with them (though they're a factor in the rest of it, of course). I would like to think that the situations of the other characters are also compelling, but who knows? It could work out well; you could find that your kid comes away realizing that parents have their own issues and worries. On the other hand, the kid is also going to find out that parents sometimes have ...


There is one onstage sex scene in the book. It is not particularly explicit and it's only two sentences long. I'd have made it even less explicit, but it's a plot point. Still, relationships are an important part of this book, and who's having sex with whom (or wants to) is an important part of relationships. There are two conversations in the book which take place after the characters have finished having sex, for example, and the the reader is expected to be able to deduce that's what has just happened (offstage). The fifteen-year-olds are not in the world of sex yet, but they're not clueless either.

"Alice had decided on her own to learn the gory details of reproduction and childbirth when she was nine. Gillian had corrected a few pieces of misinformation, but that was all that had been necessary."


There are deaths in this book. A couple of them are expected to sting you. Others are supposed to provoke a reaction more like "good riddance." There are a few bits of violence which are shocking because they're supposed to be shocking, but I'm not in the business of violence porn and I don't linger on them to excess. Like the other characters, the fifteen-year-olds do get put into danger in a number of places, including a near-assault which, again, needs to be fairly disturbing or I haven't done my job right, but ultimately they persevere and triumph and come out well in the end, as do their parents.

There is a fair bit of destruction, what with the aliens attacking every night, but frankly the most unnerving bit for someone the same age as the girls is going to be the part where one of them runs away--for just and sufficient reason--and finds she's gotten in well over her head.


This book is mostly about people, but the story takes place atop a backdrop of various weighty things: authoritarianism, conspiracy, Balkanization, corruption, underground resistance, racial and economic inequality, and so on. When these issues wander into the story, I try to discuss them in ways even a young reader can get, and I wouldn't apologize for exposing a teenager to them; these things are topical and important.

(Less topical than you might think. This book was completely plotted and mostly written in 2016. Some of it is a response to long-term trends, but none of it is a response to short-term events.)

I grant, however, that depending on your personal politics, you may not want to expose your kid to any of this. Certainly if you are pro-authoritarianism, this is not the book for you. While I don't treat the issues in a kneejerk manner (understanding what people are willing to trade for security, and why, is an important theme), my sympathies are very clearly with the underground, and I don't try to conceal that.


I'm also not very flattering to certain flavors of religion in this book, but if you belong to one of those flavors, I'm pretty sure you already concluded this book should be burned many paragraphs ago. Apart from that, this book is not "yay godlessness" by any means; it's just that most of the characters have found their own relationship with faith, or in some cases the lack of it, and we must accept that all answers are valid here.


The kids don't cuss. It's not delicacy on my part; it just didn't seem to fit their personalities. The rest of our key players do fire off some foul language now and then when it seems appropriate. There is one minor character who cusses like a longshoreman, but she's only in one chapter.


I use a fancy word every now and then, but not excessively, and anyway that's why dictionaries were invented.

I think that covers all the hot spots. I hope it will give you enough of a basis to decide whether you want your kid going anywhere near this thing.
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Published on September 04, 2018 15:02 • 103 views • Tags: gillian-s-eye

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