This coming-of-age novel by Judy Blume is published by Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Inc., and is written for kids ages 12 and older. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Fifteen-year-old Davis (Davey) Wexler is in shock after her father is shot to death at his Atlantic City, N.J., convenience store. Mom decides she, Davey and 7-year-old Jason need a change of scenery. They fly to Los Alamos, N.M., to stay with Dad's sister, Bitsy, and her husband, Walter.
Davey quickly tires of sightseeing with her family. She borrows Bitsy's bike and rides to a beautiful, nearby canyon. As she hikes and thinks about her dad, she meets a college boy, who helps her climb to the top. He calls himself Wolf, and she tells him to call her Tiger.
Mom learns their store in Atlantic City has been vandalized. This sends her into an even deeper depression, and she starts experiencing severe headaches. She decides they will stay in Los Alamos for a while so she can get some rest and psychological help. Bitsy enrolls Davey and Jason in school.
Davey goes to the canyon frequently, hoping to see Wolf. They often run into each other and hike together. Davey also makes a friend at school named Jane. Jane and Davey volunteer as hospital candy stripers, and Davey befriends a terminal cancer patient named Mr. Ortiz.
One evening, Jane plans for them to meet up with two boys from school. Jane ends up getting drunk and making out with one of the boys. From this and other incidents, Davey realizes that her friend has a drinking problem.
Davey discovers Mr. Ortiz is Wolf's father. Davey and Wolf don't talk much about their families, but their common pain — her losing her dad and his father dying — clearly bonds them. After Mr. Ortiz dies, Wolf says goodbye to Davey. He says he's going away for a while but will return, "when the lizards run."
Davey repeatedly butts heads with her paranoid and overprotective aunt and uncle, who refuse to let her engage in any potentially dangerous activity. She's angry with Mom, who is too depressed to do anything but defer to Walter and Bitsy. She's also unhappy that Mom is dating one of Walter's nerdy friends, Ned.
Davey gets a lead role in the school musical. Mom invites Davey to join her in counseling. Davey finally talks about watching her father die a bloody death. The counselor gives Davey some information on alcoholism to share with Jane. Ned asks Mom to marry him. Much to Walter and Bitsy's dismay, Mom declines. She believes she and the kids need to return home to face their fears and start a new life. Davey leaves a stack of letters for Wolf in the canyon. Jane admits to her alcohol problem and gets help. Davey embraces the changes that have taken place inside her and bravely faces a fresh start in Atlantic City.
Jane's family goes to church. Jane, hung over, begs Davey to go with them one Sunday. Davey says there are many churches in Los Alamos.
Other Belief Systems
In Los Alamos, the family celebrates Hanukkah and Christmas. Davey, noticing all the churches in this scientific community, wonders if scientists pray more than others because they have more guilt and fear. She says she read in Time magazine that organized religion was based on guilt and fear. Davey's parents were both half Jewish. Her family went to a Unitarian Fellowship for a while, then to a temple. Now, they don't go at all. Davey says dying scares her because it's so permanent. She'd like to think there's an afterlife, but she can't really bring herself to believe it.
Words such as pissed, a--, d--n, h---, crap, and b--ch appear approximately half a dozen times each. The Lord's name is taken in vain a handful of times. When Davey finally starts processing her feelings from the night of Dad's death, she talks about the blood splattered everywhere at the scene of the shooting.
Davey says she was born six-and-a-half months after her parents got married. They called her their Million Dollar Baby because she was conceived under the Million Dollar pier. Davey remembers making out with a boy the night Dad died.
After Davey passes out at school, the nurse grills her about whether she's having her period, taking drugs or drinking. She asks if there's any chance Davey is pregnant. When Davey first sees Wolf, she worries that he could be a rapist or junkie. Davey later imagines living in a cave with Wolf and making love on the rocks in the canyon. She wonders if a girl at school who tries to befriend her is gay. When a teacher shows a film and leaves the room unattended, some kids make out. Davey says if anyone flashes her while she's candy striping, she will tell him to "put it away."
Jane tells Davey her brother-in-law never slept with anyone before her sister. She also says her parents have sex once a week on Saturday nights. Jane tells Davey she's only kissed two boys, and she learned about sex by looking it up in the library's card catalog. When she asked her sisters about sex, they told her to ask Mom. Mom told her she was too young to be asking about that. Jane says they should teach sex ed in school. Jane makes out with a boy in the backseat of a stranger's car after getting drunk on vodka.
Davey begins to question Jane's claims of only having kissed a few boys. She wonders if Jane has done a lot more but just doesn't remember because she was drunk. Davey says her counselor wears a shirt unbuttoned far enough to show she's not wearing a bra, and her breasts jiggle as she walks.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What role does fear play in this story?
- What do the different characters fear?
- How does fear dictate the way they live their lives?
- How does Davey deal with her fear?
- What do you fear?
- How do you deal with it?
What does the Bible say about fear?
Why is Davey so deeply impacted by Mr. Ortiz's death?
How would you respond to Davey's belief that organized religion is based on guilt and fear?
What does the Bible say about the church and its role in the life of a Christian?
How does Davey try to help Jane with her alcohol abuse?
- How can you help and support a friend or loved one who is dealing with an addiction?
Alcohol: At a restaurant, Mom orders a pitcher of sangria for her and Davey to share. When Davey panics, seeing blood from Jason's nosebleed, Bitsy gives her brandy to calm her down. Mom offers a guest brandy. Walter drinks brandy, sometimes several glasses when he's feeling gloomy. A kindergarten teacher joins the family for Christmas dinner and gets silly after having too much wine. Davey mentions a clique at school called the Loadies. They are known for their drinking and drug use. She says you can buy whatever you want out of the trunk of someone's car at school. Davey goes out with Jane and two boys from school. Ted, the guy Jane likes, brings vodka. Davey isn't into alcohol and only takes a sip. She says she doesn't like the way she feels when she drinks or the way she feels afterward. Jane and Ted get drunk, and Jane throws up on a stranger's car. Davey confronts Jane about her drinking, telling her she shouldn't drink at all if she can't handle it. Jane's drinking problem becomes more pronounced. She's drunk when she tries out for the school musical and humiliates herself. Davey continues to urge her to get help and gives her information about a treatment program. Jane finally admits her problem and starts treatment.
Racism: Jane suggests all the Spanish boys in Santa Fe are out to rape white girls. When Bitsy and Walter see Davey with Wolf, they're concerned because he's Latino. Davey tells them he works at the lab, and they assume he works in maintenance. In fact, he's an educated young man who does research.
Lying: Davey initially lies to Jane about her father's death, saying he died of a heart attack. Davey prepares a lie to explain Jane's drunkenness to Jane's parents if necessary.
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Readability Age Range
12 and up
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Books for Young Readers, a division of Random House Inc.
Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award, 1983; California Young Reader Medal, 1983; Buckeye Children's Book Award, 1983