Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live. Through reviews, articles and discussions, we want to spark intellectual thought, spiritual growth and a desire to follow the command of Colossians 2:8: "See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."


Family uses Plugged In as a ‘significant compass’

"I am at a loss for words to adequately express how much it means to my husband and me to know that there is an organization like Focus that is rooting for us. Just today I was reading Psalm 37 and thinking about how your ministry provides ways to 'dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.' We have two teenagers and an 8-year-old in our household...Plugged In has become a significant compass for our family. All three of our kids are dedicated to their walk with Christ but they still encounter challenges. Thanks for all of your research and persistence in helping us navigate through stormy waters."

Plugged In helps college student stand-up for his belief

"Thanks for the great job you do in posting movie and television reviews online. I’m a college freshman and I recently had a confrontational disagreement with my English professor regarding an R-rated film. It is her favorite movie and she wanted to show it in class. I went to your Web site to research the film’s content. Although I had not seen the movie myself, I was able to make an educated argument against it based on the concerns you outlined. The prof said that she was impressed by my stand and decided to poll the whole class and give us a choice. We overwhelmingly voted to watch a G-rated movie instead! I’ve learned that I can trust your site and I will be using it a lot in the future.”

Plugged In brings ‘Sanity and Order’ to Non-believer

“Even though I don’t consider myself a Christian, I find your Plugged In Web site useful and thought-provoking. No one reviews movies like you do. Instead of being judgmental, you put entertainment ‘on trial.’ After presenting the evidence, you allow the jury of your readers to decide for themselves what they should do. In my opinion, you bring sanity and order to the wild world of modern day entertainment. Keep up the good work!”

Mom thinks Plugged In is the ‘BEST Christian media review site’

"Our family doesn't go to the movies until we go online and check out your assessment of a given film. I think this is the BEST Christian media review website that I've found, and I recommend it to my family and friends. Keep up the good work!"


Our hope is that whether you're a parent, youth leader or teen, the information and tools at Plugged In will help you and your family make appropriate media decisions. We are privileged to do the work we do, and are continually thankful for the generosity and support from you, our loyal readers, listeners and friends.

We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Book Review

Sorta Like a Rock Star by Matthew Quick has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Seventeen-year-old Amber Appleton’s life has not been easy. Her father left her and her mother when Amber was just a toddler. Since then, her mother has drifted between jobs and boyfriends in the town of Childress. At the moment, they are homeless, living in “Hello Yellow,” the school bus her mother drives as her day job.

Amber’s best friend is Triple B, or Bobby Big Boy, the tiny mutt she rescued from a shoebox a year ago. He keeps her company at night when her mom is at the bars looking for a new boyfriend. Amber tries not to hold a grudge, knowing her mom does the best she can, but sometimes it is hard not to get angry as she knows her mom drinks away a lot of the money she earns, which is why they go hungry much of the time and have to live in a bus.

Amber’s human best friend is Ricky Roberts, an autistic savant. She and Triple B go to Ricky’s house every morning and make breakfast for Ricky and his mom, Donna. Donna is Amber’s inspiration, having come out of poverty by earning a scholarship to college and becoming a successful lawyer. Donna suspects Amber’s home life is not the best, so she never says anything about the amount of time Amber spends at the house. She even buys food for Triple B. Amber also walks Ricky home from school and cooks dinner for the three of them before going back to the school bus.

An eternal optimist and diehard fan of JC, Jesus Christ, Amber seeks to spread hope and cheer to everyone she meets. She formed the Franks Freak Force Five, a club with her, Ricky, and three other “freaks” from school she met in a special education class in fifth grade. She was sent there because she had missed so much school due to taking road trips with her mother and her mother’s boyfriend, a truck driver. The other members, Ty (the only black student in the school), Chad (a boy in a wheelchair) and Jared (a boy who stutters) have been inseparable ever since. They even take on the school board to save their favorite teacher, Mr. Franks, from having his job terminated.

Amber teaches English to Korean women at the Catholic Church after school once a week. Father Chee, the middle-aged Korean priest, lets her liven the lessons up by allowing Amber to use songs by the Supremes to teach the women. She calls the group the KDFCs, which stands for Korean Divas for Christ. Father Chee is Amber’s confessor and another of her favorite people. On Wednesday afternoons, Amber goes to the nursing home and bribes the woman at the front desk, Door Woman Lucy, with a candy bar and cocoa to let her bring Bobby Big Boy inside.

In the common room, Amber holds a battle between Hope and Pessimism. She defends the optimistic side, while Joan of Old, a crabby blind woman confined to a wheelchair, fights to pop Amber’s hopeful bubble. Amber must make Joan smile to win, and Joan has to make Amber cry. The arguing is lighthearted and fun for the most part, although Joan’s zingers can sting sometimes. Amber always wins the fights, bringing some much needed joy to the residents.

Amber also spends time with Private Jackson, a reclusive Vietnam War veteran whom she met after a school project. Jackson, who spends his days with his dog and writing haikus, reluctantly allowed Amber into his life after her dog bonded with his. She won him over by sending him haikus about her dog. Now they often let their dogs play in the park and will sip green tea together, even though she does not like the taste.

Amber tries to remain optimistic, praying to God to help her mother and to find them a home, but everyday setbacks begin to take their toll. When her mother is brutally murdered, Amber shuts down completely. Donna is horrified to discover that Amber has been living in a school bus and immediately files to have legal guardianship of her. She renovates a bedroom in her house and makes it Amber’s.

Amber sinks into depression, losing her faith because, after all, what kind of God would allow a monster to kill her mother? Father Chee comes over every day to sit with her. If she wants to talk, he talks with her, but if she stays in her bed, he prays for her. Old Man Linder, one of her friends from the nursing home, comes over and tries to offer Amber his condolences, but she is rude to him and sends him away in tears.

Her friend Ty tries to convince her to go to an ice cream shop with the Five, but she refuses. He tells her he will not shave until she comes out for sundaes with them again. After an emotional talk with Father Chee, in which he admits he put too much pressure on her to come out of her depression so his faith would be strengthened, he agrees not to come again unless she asks for him.

Amber remains secluded in the house until one night Donna admits that Bobby Big Boy is ill and must be taken to the veterinarian. The vet confirms that Triple B has a tumor, but he will only know if it is cancerous if he performs surgery. Amber insists she must be the one to pay for it and so signs a payment form before she leaves her dog overnight so he can have the operation in the morning.

On the way home, Amber asks Donna to drop her off at Private Jackson’s house. As they sip green tea, Amber breaks down and cries. For the first time, Jackson sits next to her and hugs her as she sobs. In another first, he writes a haiku that is not about something true, but about something he hopes will happen.

Her need to help Triple B motivates Amber back to the living, and she returns to school. She asks Mr. Franks and the Franks Force Five to help her put on a talent show to raise money. They agree, but only if she will let them do the organizing. The boys take off with the idea; soon the whole school wants to be involved. Amber gets the KDFCs to perform with Door Woman Lucy as their lead singer as she has a band. Amber also persuades Mr. Linder to sing as well. She is thrilled when the vet informs her that Bobby Big Boy’s tumor was benign and he can come home.

On the night of the talent show, Amber wears the prom dress she made in Life Skills class so she can look nice as the emcee. She is shocked when she arrives to see that the whole school and most of the town has turned out. Even Private Jackson comes, and she gives him a seat next to Donna. The show is a phenomenal success with Lucy and the KDFCs bringing down the house. As the finale, they announce how much money was raised. Amber needed about $3,000 for Triple B’s procedure. They raised over $200,000 for her college fund. In addition, Joan of Old and some of the other residents of the nursing home have written Amber into their wills so that she will have enough to pay for her college and law school.

The outpouring of love and support continue to help Amber heal from her grief. In a final act, she has her friend Ty take her to visit her mother’s murderer. While the man stares at her from behind the glass and tries to get her to speak to him, she merely holds up a haiku that celebrates her choice to live, and live with hope. As they leave the prison, she gives Ty a present, a razor. She helps him shave his beard, and then they pick up their friends and celebrate with ice-cream shop sundaes.

Christian Beliefs

Initially, Amber’s faith seems a little bizarre. However, it becomes obvious that she is a heartfelt and sincere believer. She truly has a childlike faith because it started with a children’s book that had stories about Jesus. Without any other religious influence, she clung to the fact that Jesus was a rock star who did not judge people and did not shout or hit people to win them over.

In eighth grade, she started to go to religious classes with Ty, whose family was Catholic. She was baptized and confirmed into the Catholic Church, but stopped going to mass a year later because the priest preached about Jesus like He was boring and not a rock star.

Eventually, she met up with Father Chee at the Korean Catholic Church. Amber prays almost every night and truly seems to seek a relationship with God — until her mother is killed. Her depression is heartbreakingly real, and she has many conversations with Father Chee, asking him questions like “Why are dogs more humane than humans?” to which Father Chee always tells her that he does not know. Father Chee’s parents were martyred in Korea for being Christian, and he became a priest to honor their sacrifice.

Other Belief Systems

Donna and Ricky are atheists, but they do not argue with Amber’s faith. Amber’s childlike faith has her convinced that Bobby Big Boy is also Catholic and will go to heaven when he dies. Amber calls Donna a goddess and says if she were not an atheist, she would be perfect, maybe God incarnate.

Authority Roles

Amber’s father left the family when she was still a baby. Although Amber has good memories of her mother, her mother is untrustworthy and an alcoholic. Amber surrounds herself with surrogate parents who love and help her, including Father Chee and Donna.


The f-word is spoken, as well as the euphemism frickin. A--is used alone and with kick, lame, thick and hole. H---, d--n, b--ch and sh--ting are used. Other objectionable words are pee, poo, butt, crap, sucks, stiffy, pi--y, ho-bag, heck and bull.

Amber kicks a boy from the football team in the shins because he tells Ricky to tell a girl that she had nice breasts. She later slaps the boy because he calls her a nasty name. Although Amber’s mother is brutally murdered, the crime is not described in detail.


Amber passes kids kissing in the hallway. She realizes that the old song “Making Whoopee” is about sex. Amber is proud of being a virgin. A teacher says something in a book is a metaphor for accidental homosexual ejaculation, but Amber says he sees sexual metaphors in all the books they read. Ricky tells a girl that her boobies are lovely. He also tells Amber that she looks sexy in a new T-shirt.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for this book and others, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

Additional Comments/Notes

Alcohol: Amber’s mother drinks vodka. One of her old boyfriends drank beer. Amber uses alcohol to flavor the food she makes for Donna and Ricky.

Tobacco: Amber’s mother smokes cigarettes.

You can request a review of a title you can't find at reviewrequests@family.org.

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book's review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Episode Reviews



Readability Age Range

12 and up


Matthew Quick






Record Label



Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, a division of Hachette Book Group Inc.


On Video

Year Published



YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2011; Amelia Elizabeth Walden Book Award for Young Adult Fiction Finalist, 2011; and others


We hope this review was both interesting and useful. Please share it with family and friends who would benefit from it as well.

Get weekly e-news, Culture Clips & more!