What is the appropriate age group to read the novel (not the movie).
I have an 11 year old who is interested in reading the book we still do not let her watch PG 13 movies (although she has seen a few). I think the book is amazing (one of my favorites) but I do not want to share it with her too early.
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If you do not let her watch PG 13 movies then I would say it is too early to let her read the book. The Lovely Bones is an incredible book but many times there are more graphic images and concepts in the book than in the movie. Also, considering the nature of the book, the book may scare her because of her age. I think it may be wise to wait a couple of years to let her read the book. Making her wait may even help her to appreciate and understand the book even more. A girl matures a lot from the age of eleven to thirteen.
You might go back and reread the book through your child's eyes. Remember that the imagination is an incredible thing, but many of the images we conjur up are influenced by what we have already experienced. I am always amazed at some of the connections that my students make in a story that I would have never made. On the other hand, I am frustrated at times that they miss what I consider to be obvious plot lines, but it is often their lack of life experiences that keep them from seeing things.
Think about a story that you have reread and got a completely different take on it because of where you were in your life the second time you read it.
Another example, I would never have denied my children the wonderful story "Where the Wild Things Are", but would have hesitated at taking them to the theatre to see the movie as young as they were when I first introduced the book.
It is best to leave it to an early high school population due to the nature of the story, and because there is expletive language used in the book. The description in which Susie is raped and killed is quite strong, and I couldn't visualize any of my 6th-8th graders quite getting a grasp on it without taking away the morbo on it, which would defeat the purpose.
By the time kids reach 8th grade, they would have read Beowulf which is no picnic either, so they would be mentally ready a year later to deal with something a bit more explicit.
I first read the book when I was about 19, and it deeply disturbed me. When I go through it again now, at 23, I find that it both dazzles and disturbs me. The beauty in the novel is superb, as is the writing style itself. The story is based on Sebold's own rape, and a woman who was murdered in the same way Susie Salmon is in the novel. The murder took place in the place where Sebold was raped, thus she took the two true stories and turned them into a wondrous novel.
However, the book is very tragic, graphic, and difficult to read (emotionally) at times. As I mentioned, it still disturbs me as much as I love it, and I'm over twice your daughter's age.
The novel has a rape scene, a murder scene, an "after murder" scene, and a sex scene, not to mention the emotions described by Susie as she enters "the in-between."
Honestly, I would never recommend this book for an 11 year old, and possibly not even for a young highschooler. You, however, would benefit from reading it. The Lovely Bones is one of my favorite novels, but it is emotionally a very turbulent read.
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