I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Chloe Green wants nothing more than the title of valedictorian, and she’s almost got it in the bag. There’s just one little problem and her name is Shara Wheeler, who happens to be Chloe’s greatest competition and school sweetheart. Chloe and Shara have been competing forces since Chloe arrived at Willowgrove Christian Academy during her freshman year of high school. They have a completely normal academic rivalry, until Shara corners Chloe and kisses her, leaving Chloe angry and bewildered. 

Then, Shara goes missing after prom night and the whole school is enraptured by the perfect Christian girl’s disappearance. Chloe is unfazed, however; she knows there’s more to Shara than meets the eye. Chloe discovers that she isn’t the only person Shara kissed before magically disappearing. Right before disappearing, Shara also kissed Rory, Shara’s next-door neighbor, and Smith, Shara’s boyfriend. Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too. 

I Kissed Shara Wheeler takes the reader on a journey through the rigid conservative Christian values of False Beach, Alabama. Readers will get an in-depth look through the eyes of the residents who have a myriad of complicated feelings about their town and the places they occupy within it. The book is narrated by Chloe, whose perspective is strongly influenced by her liberal, southern California roots, but most of the other characters don’t know life outside of False Beach and their staunchly religious private school. As much as Chloe’s strong-willed opinions drive change, the other characters teach her about the complicated love they have for their home, even when it strives to suppress various aspects of their identities. 

Much of the book’s content discusses sexuality as the characters grow and learn to accept themselves for who they are. The story opens with Shara kissing Chloe, though at this point Shara has never appeared as more than just a conservative Christian girl. In contrast, Chloe is openly bisexual and anti-religious, but it takes both girls most of the book to realize that they have genuine feelings and attraction for each other. Many of the other characters also go through their own reckonings in the book, including Smith and Rory, who discover that their feelings for each other are more than just that of childhood best friends.  

Fans of Casey McQuiston’s other books Red, White, and Royal Blue and One Last Stop will likely enjoy the fun energy in I Kissed Shara Wheeler. McQuiston balances the serious moments with the characters’ sense of humor. Some readers may find Chloe to be a bit single-minded in her quest to triumph over Shara, but this doesn’t draw away from the story. Ultimately, readers will be able to take away that there is always more than meets the eye, and there is always room to change and grow into the person you want to be. Readers who enjoy I Kissed Shara Wheeler can find more romance by reading Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon or The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith.

Sexual Content  

  • Chloe explains why she’s looking for Shara Wheeler. Chloe says, “Because two days ago, Shara found her alone in the B Building elevator before fifth hour, pulled her in by the elbow, and kissed her until she forgot an entire semester of French.” It then comes to light that Shara has kissed Smith (her boyfriend) and Rory (her neighbor) as well. 
  • No one knows where Shara is, and Chloe comes up with unlikely theories – one being that Shara has “some sugar daddy she’s holed up with or something.” 
  • Chloe writes a letter to her friend about being kissed by Shara. Chloe starts by telling her not to react while reading the letter because “if Madame Clark picks this one up and reads it out loud like she did with Tanner’s ranking of girls’ butt’s I will literally kill you.” 
  • Chloe notes that when she first moved to False Beach, Alabama, she was in freshman bio and noted that “the chapter on sexual reproduction was taped shut.” 
  • Chloe, Rory, and Smith go into Rory’s room to use his computer. Chloe “counts at least three different hand-drawn penises” on Rory’s bedroom wall. 
  • There is a joke school code of conduct that is presumably written by Chloe. Among other details, it includes, “No student may smoke, drink, dance, or have sex, which means half the students are smoking, drinking, dancing, having sex, and lying about it. Pills are fine. If you’re on the football team, just ask Emma Grace’s dad to write you a prescription.” This list lasts for a page. 
  • Chloe notes that once at a party, she “almost got French-kissed by Tucker Price from the Quiz Bowl team in his parents’ saltwater jacuzzi.” 
  • After a trip, Chloe’s two moms kiss. Chloe jokes that they kiss “like they’re on the bow of the freaking Titanic.” 
  • Chloe briefly mentions a situation where “a sophomore sent her boyfriend nudes and he forwarded them to all his friends.” This comes up on chapel day at school and the administration then gave “a very shame-y talk on modesty.” 
  • Chloe’s friend tells Chloe that he’s “a make-out hobbyist . . . I’ve kissed like, all my homies.” He doesn’t go into details. 
  • Shara’s neighbor, Rory, expresses his repressed feelings for Smith to Chloe. He says, “maybe I talked myself into [Shara], because when I looked at her and Smith together, I was so jealous, and she seemed like the right place to put it.” Chloe validates his feelings, telling him, “It would be okay. If you didn’t like Shara. If you didn’t like girls at all.” It is revealed later that Smith has similar feelings for Rory as well. 
  • Chloe finds Shara and Shara kisses Chloe. Chloe thinks that Shara “knows exactly what she’s doing when [Chloe] twists her fingers into the loose wisps of hair at the nape of Shara’s neck and kisses her back, hard. Her other hand grips the tulle where it fans out from Shara’s waist and holds Shara’s body up against hers like see, we’re a match, and it works — Shara sighs and lets go of the rail to slide her palm over Chloe’s cheek.” The description lasts for half a page. 
  • Chloe’s classmate Georgia gets caught “making out in the B Building bathroom” with their other classmate, Summer, and Georgia gets reported to the principal’s office. No other description is given for that kiss. It’s only said that Georgia has been dating Summer and Summer has “known she was bi since last year.” 
  • Smith and Rory kiss and Chloe walks in on their moment. She’s hiding and she describes only what she can hear, saying, “Then, after a few seconds, just long enough for a nervous first kiss, Smith laughs.” 
  • Two of Chloe’s classmates are arguing, and one tells the other that “if she wanted people to believe things she says, she shouldn’t have lied about giving her best friend’s crush a handjob at her birthday party.” 
  • Chloe and Shara kiss in Shara’s bedroom. Chloe describes, “She tips her head forward, and Shara kisses her. Chloe puts her arms around Shara’s neck and kisses her back.” The description lasts for a page. 
  • Chloe and Shara make out. “Chloe doesn’t know how long. It felt like a long time.” The page before, they have a conversation on how they both want to take it slow. Chloe says, “Shara’s hand drops from Chloe’s neck to her shoulder, and then she’s pushing Chloe down on the bed and kissing her, one hand pinning her to the mattress and the other on her waist.” 
  • Chloe fights against the school administration’s policies. For instance, she says, “Freshman year, she adjusted to Willowgrove by making problems on purpose, but nobody showed up to her GSA meeting, and she got suspended for bringing free condoms to school in protest of the abstinence-only sex ed policy.” 
  • Chloe’s classmate Dixon makes a rude sexual comment towards Chloe at the party, citing something he calls the Rachel Rule. He says, “‘It’s a rule the seniors made last year for Rachel Kennedy, who was a huge bitch but still got to come to parties because she had huge boobs.’ He’s looking down now. At her chest, and her wet shirt. He hands clench into firsts at her sides — ever since she sprouted D-cups in tenth grade, a guy staring at her chest has never ended well. ‘So, as long as you keep wearing that, the Rachel Rule says you can stay.’” Chloe does not like this, and she expresses her discontent by telling him that he peaked in high school and, even now, she “still wouldn’t sleep with him.” 

Violence  

  • Chloe finally finds Shara, and Chloe is furious. In her anger, she shoves Shara into a lake. Chloe describes, “with one solid shove, she pushes Shara — prom dress and all — over the railing and into Lake Martin.” 
  • Chloe “punched a mall Santa when [she] was five.”  

Drugs and Alcohol  

  • Chloe refers to her classmate, Jake Stone, as “Stone the Stoner.”  
  • Jake Stone was suspended once because he “was caught vaping” in the school bathroom. 
  • Every teacher at Willowgrove has to “sign a morality clause saying they won’t drink, express political opinions or be gay.” 
  • Chloe says that False Beach, Alabama has “the aura of a Mountain Dew bottle filled with dip spit.” 
  • Chloe goes to a high school party and is annoyed that she has to watch a classmate “slobber all over a beer bong.” There is plenty of drinking at this party, including something referred to as an “upside down margarita,” which is a drinking game. The party’s descriptions last for a couple of chapters. 
  • The Willowgrove school district hired a cop to scare the students about drugs, but instead, Chloe notes that the cop “ended up telling us exactly how many ounces of weed you can carry without getting arrested.” 
  • Chloe stays up too late thinking about Shara and has a massive headache the next day. She says, “This must be what a hangover feels like.” 

Language  

  • Chloe notes that Shara’s disappearance is odd. Chloe thinks to herself, “That’s the thing about popular kids: They don’t have the type of bond forged in the fire of being weird and queer in small-to-medium-town Alabama. If Chloe tried to ghost like this, there’d be a militia of Shakespeare gays kicking down every door in False Beach.” 
  • Strong language is used frequently. Profanity includes ass, fuck, idiot, d-bags, shit, megabitch, crap, dick, hell, and douchebag. 
  • Chloe says “Shara Wheeler is the most tragic heterosexual to ever cram herself into a Brandy Melville crop top.” 
  • Chloe describes her classmate’s understanding of her as “the weird queer girl from LA with two lesbian moms.” 
  • Chloe’s friend Georgia has a collection of books at her parents’ bookstore just for Chloe, and she “affectionately calls it Chloe’s Monster Fucker Collection” due to the fact that Chloe likes stories where the headstrong main female protagonist falls in love with the villain, which sometimes happens to be a literal nonhuman entity. 
  • Chloe and her friends identify as LGTBQ+, and they reference their sexualities somewhat often in-text. For instance, Chloe’s friend Benjy is worried about his future college roommate. He says, “My new fear is that he’ll be a hot straight guy. I cannot spend my first year away from home with an unrequited crush on a guy who wears neckties to football games…I don’t have high hopes for the gays of Tuscaloosa.”  
  • Chloe’s classmate is an unpleasant person by all counts. She details why, saying he’s “the type who insists it’s okay for him to make offensive jokes because he’s not actually racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/whatever so he doesn’t actually mean them, but aren’t the jokes so funny.” 
  • Smith asks Ash, a nonbinary student, to “explain the whole nonbinary thing” to him. Ash explains to Smith it’s, “Like if someone yelled your first name [William] at you. You might answer to it, but it wouldn’t feel right, because that’s not you.” Ash and Smith have this conversation for several pages. 
  • Chloe doesn’t want another student named Drew Taylor to be her salutatorian because “he has a YouTube channel about why girls at Willowgrove are sluts for taking birth control pills.” 
  • Chloe’s mom exclaims “Jesus Christ” when she finds out that Chloe has Shara’s expensive crucifix necklace. 

Supernatural 

  • Chloe sometimes wishes she lived in another place and time. An example of this is that she wishes she “were a vampire hunter in Edwardian England.” 

Spiritual Content  

  • The book opens with a service at the Willowgrove Christian Church, “where the Wheelers are spending their morning pretending to be nice, normal folks whose nice, normal daughter didn’t stage a disappearing act at prom twelve hours ago.” 
  • Chloe finds the spare key to the Wheeler’s house under a rock with “Joshua 24:15 engraved on it. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Bible quotes are scattered throughout the book. 
  • The students in this book attend “Willowgrove Christian Academy.” Chloe describes a billboard for the academy reading, “Jesus Loves Geometry! A Christ-Centered Education At Willowgrove Christian Academy!” The school also has “chapel days” where the students are required to attend service. 
  • Chloe greatly dislikes her religious school, but she attends the school because of its academics and theater program. She says, “If this was her only option, she could put up with the Jesus stuff.” 
  • Shara wore a somewhat revealing dress at homecoming. Chloe describes, “It was only a blue silk slip with a modest neckline, but it stuck to her like water, and she wasn’t wearing a bra . . . God’s favorite daughter shows one hint of nip.” 
  • Chloe half-jokes that Shara Wheeler’s family “has more money than God.” 
  • Mr. Wheeler is the principal at Willowgrove, and he has a reputation for “telling teenagers they’re going to hell.” He says many religious things to the students, including telling Chloe that “gossip is against God’s will.” This is how many teachers and much of the curriculum work at this school. 
  • Shara expresses in her journal entry that “the loudest Christians I’ve ever met were the worst ones.” 
  • Shara and Chloe go through their notes for their AP European History exam, which involves a lot of religious history. For instance, they reference the “Defenestration of Prague” where “Protestants threw a bunch of Catholic officials out of a castle window in Bohemia. Started the Thirty Years War.” There is a series of notes like this for a couple of pages. 
  • Georgia explains to Chloe that Summer’s church “is more into Jesus the brown socialist than the whole eternal damnation thing.” 
  • Chloe explains that her understanding of Christianity is based on Willowgrove’s variety – “judgmental, sanctimonious hypocrites hiding hate behind Bible verses, twenty-four-karat crucifix necklaces, and charismatic white pastors with all the horrible secrets that money can protect.” 
  • The school finds out that there’s been an admissions scam at Willowgrove, and Benjy sees all the fliers with the information and exclaims, “Jesus wept.” 

A Swiftly Tilting Planet

When Mad Dog Branzillo, a leader of a small South American country, develops nuclear weapons, it seems the end of the world is at hand. Mad Dog is a crazy man full of hate who would be willing—eager even—to destroy the world. When Meg’s family hears this, there seems to be nothing to do but wait for the end of the world. But Mrs. O’Keefe, Meg’s mother-in-law, is suddenly reminded of an old Irish rune that her grandmother taught her about when she was a child. The rune is supposed to have great power, but can only be used in the time of greatest need.

Meg’s little brother Charles Wallace decides to use the rune. When he does so, he is sent a unicorn who can ride the winds of time. The unicorn tells him that history is full of Might-Have-Beens, where a single decision could change the course of history. To save the world, the unicorn takes Charles Wallace back in time and sends him ‘within’ the lives of several people—from the first Native American settlers to the Civil War period. As a passenger in these people, Charles becomes them. He sees what they see and hears what they hear. But he is able, perhaps, to nudge them in a better direction and change the vital Might-Have-Beens that lead to Mad Dog Branzillo.

L’Engle’s book is an allegorical tale that explores the battle of good and evil that started when the fallen angels were banished from heaven. While most of the story is phrased in terms of good and evil, there are points where the unicorn mentions heaven, angels, and other biblical concepts explicitly. In addition, when Charles Wallace visits a settlement in the time of the Salem Witch Trials, God is discussed frequently and scripture is used both by the pastor trying to condemn a woman and by the man defending her.

A Swiftly Tilting Planet is all about the importance of choices, even those that seem small. It explores two family lines: one family who leaned toward violence and hungered for power, and another family who promoted peace and friendship. The two family lines parallel the struggle between good and evil, heaven and darkness. While the story is enjoyable and full of good messages, there are many characters that Charles interacts with throughout history whose many names may become confusing for less advanced readers. For those able to follow the complicated family lines and keep track of the many names, A Swiftly Tilting Planet is yet another fun ride in the Time Quintet.

Sexual Content

  • A pregnant Native American woman uses “birthing flowers” to prepare for her birth. “She knelt and breathed in the fragrance of the blossoms, took them up in her hands, and pressed them against her forehead, her lips, her breasts, against the roundness of her belly.”
  • A boy reports that his sister and the hired hand were “kissing.”

Violence

  • Two brothers fight. The brother who wins holds his brother’s head underwater until his brother promises to leave and never come back. “Madoc forced Gwydyr into the lake, and held him down under the water until rising bubbles told him that his brother was screaming for mercy.”
  • The unicorn is injured. “The entire abdominal area, where the webbed hammock had rubbed, was raw and oozing blood. The water which had flooded from [his] nostrils was pinkish.”
  • When she was an only child, Mrs. O’Keefe’s mother “came to breakfast with a black eye, explaining that she had bumped into a door in the dark.” It’s clear that her new husband abuses her.
  • Mrs. O’Keefe’s stepfather boxed her brother’s ears and pinched her inappropriately as a child. When her grandmother tried to intervene, the man tried to hit her. “Chuck thrust himself between his grandmother and stepfather and took the full force of Mortmain’s blow. Again Breezie screamed, as Chuck fell, fell down the steep stairs in a shower of broken china and glass.”
  • A girl says she saw Jack O’Keefe “take a homeless puppy and kill it by flinging it against the wall of the barn.”
  • A man comes back from war and says, “I saw a man with his face blown off and no mouth to scream with, and yet he screamed and could not die. I saw two brothers, and one was in blue and one was in grey, and I will not tell you which one took his saber and ran it through the other.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Charles Wallace’s family has plum pudding. “Mr. Murry got a bottle of brandy and poured it liberally over the pudding…The brandy burned with a brilliant blue flame . . . Mr. Murry tilted the dish so that all the brandy would burn.”

Language

  • “God” and “Oh God” are used a few times. They are said in devoted ways, not as profane exclamations.
  • A woman says, “Thank God,” when she learns that her son is alive.
  • A man writes a letter describing a Native American who helped the settlers: “God knows he is helpful.”
  • When his friend is giving birth, Brandon prays, “Oh God, God, make Zylle be all right.”

Supernatural

  • Mrs. O’Keefe gives Charles Wallace a rune that her grandmother gave her as a child. It calls upon heaven to stand against the darkness, and Charles uses pieces of the rune when he is in danger. The first time he says, “In this fateful hour I call on all Heaven with its power!” and a unicorn appears to help him. Another time, he says, “And the fire with all the strength it hath,” and the sun causes a pile of flowers to burst into flames.
  • Charles Wallace and his sister Meg know how to kythe, which is a deeper form of telepathy that “was being able to be with someone else, no matter how far away they might be…talking in a language that was deeper than words.” In this way, Meg is able to be with her brother even when he goes on a long journey.
  • Charles Wallace travels in time with a unicorn. “Slowly the radiance took on form, until it had enfleshed itself into the body of a great white beast with flowing mane and tail. From its forehead sprang a silver horn which contained the residue of the light.”
  • Charles Wallace goes back in time to prevent a madman from destroying the world. The unicorn explains, “What we must do is find the Might-Have-Beens which have led to this particular evil. I have seen many Might-Have-Beens. If such and such had been chosen, then this would not have followed. If so and so had been done, then the light would partner the dark instead of being snuffed out. It is possible that you can move into the moment of a Might-Have-Been and change it.”
  • Twice, Charles Wallace is blown into a Projection, which is “a possible future, a future the Echthroi want to make real.” The first time, they arrive in a lava world and see a “monstrous creature with a great blotched body, short stumps for legs, and long arms, with the hands brushing the ground. What was left of the face was scabrous and suppurating.”
  • A Native American says, “When the soothsayer looked into the scrying glass and foretold my father’s death, he saw also that I would live my days far from Gwynedd.”
  • A Native American sees a vision of the future in the reflection of a pond. “He feared the small oval of water which reflected Gwydyr’s face, growing larger and larger, and darker and darker, quivering until it was no longer the face of a man but of a screaming baby.”
  • Brandon, an early North American settler, sees pictures of the future. A Native American tells him, “Among my people you would be known as a Seer, and you would be having the training in prayer and trusting that would keep your gift very close to the gods, from whom the gift comes.”
  • When injured, the unicorn takes Charles Wallace to his planet in order to be healed. There the snow heals them, the unicorn drinks liquid moonlight, and Charles Wallace sees a unicorn hatch from an egg. “A sharp cracking, and a flash of brilliance as the horn thrust up and out into the pearly air, followed by a head with the silver mane clinging damply to neck and forehead. Dark silver-lashed eyes opened slowly, and the baby unicorn looked around.”

Spiritual Content

  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet is an allegorical story about the powers of good and evil, of light and darkness, of heaven’s creation and those who would want to destroy everything. There are many references to this battle throughout the book, beginning with the following description of the Echthros, the enemy of everything good. “The Echthros wanted all the glory for itself, and when that happens the good becomes not good; and others have followed that first Echthros. Wherever the Echthroi go, the shadows follow…There are places where no one has ever heard the ancient harmonies.”
  • Charles meets ancient Native Americans. They have many songs, some of which refer to “Lords of snow and rain and water.” This song eventually becomes a prayer: “Lords of blue and Lords of gold, Lords of winds and waters wild, Lords of time that’s growing old.”
  • When speaking of dead spirits struggling to find peace, a Native American asks, “Are the gods of Gwynedd so weak they cannot care for their own?”
  • A man says, “For brothers to wish to kill each other for the sake of power is to anger the gods.”
  • Ritchie, an early North American settler, says, “I cannot find it in me to believe that God enjoys long faces and scowls at merriment.”
  • When his daughter gives birth, Ritchie reads from the Bible. “I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous. I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.”
  • Charles Wallace visits the time period of the Salem Witch Trials, where there is much talk of witches, of good and evil, and of spirits. For example, one boy says, “My father says there are evil spirits abroad, hardening men’s hearts.” The pastor claims a Native American woman is a witch and it is God’s will that she be killed. The Native American woman’s father-in-law uses scripture to defend her, but the townspeople won’t listen.
  • Mrs. O’Keefe’s grandmother said several times that her dead husband is “waiting for me” before she passed away.
  • A man speaks about the Civil War. “Oh God, it was brother against brother, Cain and Abel all over again. And I was turned into Cain. What would God have to do with a nation where brothers can turn against each other with such brutality?” He later says, “There were many nights during the war when God withdrew from our battle fields. When the songs of men fight against each other in hardness of heart, why should God not withdraw? Slavery is evil, God knows, but war is evil, too, evil, evil.”

by Morgan Lynn

The Burning Queen

In the second installment of Tangled in Time, newly orphaned Rose finds herself time-traveling between the present day and the court of the two most memorable English princesses in history. When Princess Mary ascends the throne in sixteenth-century England, Rose is forced to serve her. Mary’s coronation is coming and Rose is put to work making elaborate gowns. But the religiously devout queen’s next plan is to begin her attack on the Protestants—by burning them at the stake!

Rose’s dad, master spy, and goldsmith for the court, urges Rose to escape to her home century, present-day Indiana, where Rose befriends a young immigrant named Marisol. Rose must protect Marisol from both middle school mean girls and the threat of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose is determined to rescue her father and her best friend Franny from the dangers of Queen Mary’s reign. Is she willing to risk everything to save the people closest to her?

Readers who have not read the first Tangled in Time will not be able to understand the events in The Burning Queen. The story focuses on Rose and her friend Marisol, who is undocumented and an unaccompanied minor. Because of her immigration status, Marisol is frightened that ICE will take her to a detention center. Through Marisol’s situation, the pro-immigrant message is clear. This theme is reinforced when a doctor says, “many of us have been migrants at one time in our lives. It is not a crime.”

The story has many inconsistencies and questionable events. Even though the time travel is explained, the explanation is unbelievable. For example, when Rose returns to the past, she somehow knows everything that happened in her absence, and no one noticed that she was gone. Another questionable event is that Rose returns to the past in order to convince her father to travel to her time period; however, when she returns to the past, she hides from her father. In addition, Rose uses modern words and phrases and when people in the past question her, she “blamed every modern phrase she accidentally uttered on West Ditch, her supposed home village.”

Rose has a fashion blog that includes sixteenth-century fashion and modern fashion. Several of her blog posts are included; however, the pictures are of poor quality and do not reflect a modern teen’s blog. Rose uses words from her school vocabulary list, such as ecumenical and alacrity, but she never explains the words’ definitions.

The Burning Queen has many inconsistencies and holes in the plot that even younger readers will question. The complex, confusing plot, the questionable events, and the large cast of characters will make it difficult for readers to stay engaged. Readers may want to leave The Burning Queen on the shelf. For those interested in stories about time travel, the Ruby Red Trilogy by Kerstin Gier would make a better choice.

Sexual Content

  • Some of the serving class are talking about Queen Mary being healthy enough to carry a child. Rose says, “I think she should bear a husband first. . . All I’m saying is it’s best to have a husband before having a child.”
  • While walking through the castle, Rose sees “two shadows entwined behind a pillar. One shadow was speaking. ‘Oh, I just want to kiss you, my darling. Kiss you and kiss you and don’t make me cry, milady, don’t make me lie, milady.’” Rose thinks it’s curious that the shadows’ words are similar to a modern song, “I just want to make out with you. I want to make time with you. I want to be true to you and only you. . .”
  • Rose has to climb underneath a dinner table to fix Queen Mary’s skirt. While under there, she recognizes a lady’s shoes. “Both her feet and those of the gentleman next to her were involved in an apparently lively conversation. What a hussy!”
  • On Rose’s blog, she wrote that a duchess “got around.”
  • Rose makes a comment that “Elizabeth would be the Virgin Queen.”

Violence

  • When Rose goes back in time, she discovers that Queen Mary “was burning Protestants. . . Burning, hangings, what would be next? Boiling in oil? Oh, the sixteenth-century mind was so creative in devising ways to kill people.”
  • As Rose learns about Queen Mary, she discovers that Lady Jane Grey was the queen for nine days, and in the end was imprisoned and beheaded.
  • Although Rose doesn’t see anyone burned, she comments about the smell and writes in her diary. “The queen seems not to smell it, and as far as I can tell she looks no bigger. If I was that baby, I wouldn’t want to be born. Imagine having your first breath of air filled with the stink of these murders. Yuck! Of course some seem not to mind the stink. . .”
  • Rose writes in her diary, “And I was told that often they tie bags of gunpowder between the victim’s knees to ensure that the person was not only burned but blown to bits.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • Rose’s grandmother was “sipping a glass of sherry—just one glass on these cold winter nights.”

Language

  • A mean girl purposely trips Marisol, who drops her lunch tray. When food gets on another girl’s sweater, someone calls Marisol “stupido.”
  • Rose tells Marisol that the mean girls are “jerks.” Later someone else calls someone a jerk.
  • Heck and damn are both used twice. Darn is used four times and dang is used three times.
  • God is used as an exclamation three times. OMG is used as an exclamation eight times.
  • Someone uses “good Lord” as an exclamation.
  • Rose gets upset when a Frosty snowman kept singing a song. Rose thinks, “Go to hell, Frosty, and Melt!”
  • A lady calls a court jester a “loathsome dwarf.”
  • When Rose goes back in time, she uses the acronym TOD. When someone asks what it means, Rose says, “Turd of a dog.”
  • Jeez is used as an exclamation several times.
  • Rose gives her father a gift, and then thinks, “God, what have I done?”
  • Rose tells a girl, “Put a plug in your pug mouth.”
  • Someone calls Rose an idiot.
  • Someone uses “Oh God’s toes” as an exclamation.
    Supernatural
  • Rose’s father is from the 1500s and lived during Bloody Mary’s reign. Rose can go back in time to her father’s time period. In order to go back in time, Rose concentrates on a flower. “Marisol watched, mesmerized, as a vaporous mist began to form around Rose and she slowly dissolved, leaving just a shadow behind. Then a whisper came from the mist, ‘I’ll be back in just a minute or two.’”
  • The women in Rose’s family are able to travel back in time because “we have the gene.”
  • When Rose goes back to the past, she remembers events that she did not witness. “It was a memory she had not forgotten in the least, yet she had not directly experienced it. Her shadow had. Her ghostly counterpart that seemed to carry on without her.”

Spiritual Content

  • When Rose sees Princess Elizabeth wearing her locket, Rose prays, “Oh please, don’t let Princess Elizabeth figure out the secret to opening that locket!” Rose makes this prayer several times.
  • When Marisol falls down in the snow, Rose prays that her grandmother’s driver will answer the phone.
  • Queen Mary was a devout Catholic. Before her coronation, “there was talk of postponing the event. Holy oils that had been consecrated by the previous kings’ priests were used for coronations. But Mary was suspicious of the oil because those priests were Protestants and she was Catholic.”
  • During the sixteenth century, “the pope’s power cannot be questioned. Nor can Queen Mary’s.” When this information is introduced, Rose worries that her friend will be burned alive because she has a Bible. Rose “was absolutely dizzy with fear, with shock. She shut her eyes tight and tried to banish the image of Franny being tied to a stake. The kindling bursting into flames. Then another image came into her mind—the smugglers, the ones they called coyotes, circling Marisol. And the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officers. . .”
  • On Christmas Eve, “Marisol was on her knees again, whispering her prayers in Spanish.”
  • Rose wants her Protestant friend to go to mass and pretend to be a devout Catholic. Her friend’s mother tells her, “Only God can see into your heart. He knows what your true faith is.” When Queen Mary is excited about having her baby, Rose thinks, “A baby whose mother had just given the order to set another human on fire for not believing as she did. No God in any religion on earth would want this. Of this Rose was certain.”
  • Queen Mary dictates in a letter, “I’m sure you will rejoice and be pleased with God’s infinite goodness in the happy delivery of our son/daughter.”
  • Rose writes in her diary. “I don’t think God is exactly Mary’s friend. If he is, I am profoundly disappointed in him. There have been ten more burnings!”

No Parking At The End Times

Brother John claims that Jesus Christ is going to bring judgment at the end the world, which is near. Abigail’s parents believed him, so they sold everything they owned, loaded up a van, and moved 3,000 miles away to San Francisco. Now Abigail and her twin brother Alex are living out of a van. They eat in soup kitchens. They clean up in public bathrooms.

Abigail tries to look at the positive side of life. But when her brother begins sneaking out of the van at night, Abigail has to know where he goes. Soon Abigail is trying to keep her family together—but her father and mother are hyper-focused on the church, her brother is consumed with anger, and Abigail isn’t sure what is right anymore.

When the day Brother John said the world will end comes without disaster, Abigail realizes that her parents’ commitment to Brother John and his church may bring an end to her family.

No Parking At The End Times shows one family’s struggle to follow the right path. Unfortunately, their decision to follow a religious leader has led to hardship. As Abigail’s parents follow Brother John and wait for the end of the world, they stop caring for their children’s needs and lose the need to plan for their children’s futures. Although it is clear that the parents love their children, they are so focused on Brother John that they lose sight of what is really important.

Brother John is a main focal point of the story, and he uses the words of the Bible to con people into giving everything to his church. Abigail begins to struggle with her beliefs about God and in the end, it is unclear if Abigail’s faith has been destroyed by her experience.

Although No Parking At The End Times has little violence, the book is best suited for older readers because of its mature content. There is a scene where Abigail is in danger of being raped. Although it is not directly stated, it is implied that Aaron’s girlfriend is raped not only by a drug dealer but also by her mother’s boyfriend.

This story is interesting and enjoyable. However, the book revolves around a man who uses God’s word to manipulate people. Younger readers may have a difficult time understanding that Brother John is a false prophet who uses God’s word for his own gain.

Sexual Content

  • Aaron has a girlfriend who kisses him in front of Abigail, which embarrasses him.
  • At the park, a man yells at a bunch of homeless kids, “It is possible for me to rent bikes and not have you sit up here all day jerking off?”
  • A drug dealer, Skeetch, corners Abigail. “He pushes me against the sculpture hard, bruising my back and holding my hands above my head . . . He pushes me hard against the cement sculpture and laughs . . . He smiles, letting go of my hands long enough for me to reach out and claw him. His skin rips under my nails. I feel the blood. In pure instinct, I put my knee between his legs as hard as I can, again and again unit he falls on the ground.”
  • Aaron’s girlfriend talks about how she ran away from home when she was fourteen because her mom’s boyfriends, “liked me more than her. And she either didn’t care or didn’t want to believe it.”

Violence

  • It is implied that Skeetch raped Jess, Aaron’s girlfriend. Skeetch also beat her up. “Her face is swollen and splashed with cuts. A red line splits her bottom lip, darker than her hair.” Abigail wonders if Skeetch went after Jess because of her and Jess said, “Fuck that. It’s his fault. You didn’t do shit.”
  • When someone makes fun of their parents, Aaron hits him on the nose. “Mike fell back in his chair, blood streaming down his face, onto his shirt. Shane, one of Aaron’s other friends, grabbed him before he could punch Mike again.”
  • Skeetch beats Aaron so bad that Aaron ends up in the hospital. The fight is not described, but the wounds are. “His face is broken. There are cuts and bruises and his nose is bent sideways. One eye focuses on me while the other, blood red and beginning to swell, stares vacantly over my shoulder. He tries to sit up, but a painful gurgling sound brings him back to the grass.”

Drugs and Alcohol

  • At the park where Abigail and Aaron go, there are drug dealers. One dealer, Skeetch, gives a group of street kids a “small baggie.”
  • Abigail remembers a story about when her brother was at a party and had a beer, which upset her. “Aaron tried to hide his cup, his face. But I made it a point to stare at both.”

Language

  • The teens in the story use profanity often including damn, hell, shit, and holy crap.
  • “Jesus Christ” is used as profanity.
  • Abigail and Aaron get into an argument and Aaron yells, “Jesus, why do you defend them?  They fucked up. Big-time.”
  • When two teens begin to argue, someone said, “Let’s not ruin a good night trying to figure out which one of you is the bigger asshole.”
  • Aaron calls Brother John, “the Body of Christ’s Asshole.”
  • Skeetch calls Abagail a, “fucking bitch.”

Supernatural

  • None

Spiritual Content

  • Abigail’s parents often remind her and her brother about God’s word saying such things as, “God provides everything we need.”
  • Abigail wonders why her brother can’t believe in God. She thinks, “Because maybe if we both pretend for a few minutes, God will see we’re trying and do something.”
  • During the church services, people jump from their seats, drop to the floor, and worship God.  During one conversation, Brother John said, “It’s the Lord’s world. He does with it as He pleases.”
  • When Brother John admits he got the date for the end of the world wrong, he reminds people that God is good. Abigail thinks, “God is God and you do not question that goodness. Everything happens for a reason. We’re supposed to sit down here waiting until God gets ready.”
  • Abigail wonders if God is real. “Habit tells me to send a prayer, something quick and silent, shooting into the sky—but I’m not sure that will help anymore.”
  • Abigail compares her father to God. “Dad isn’t listening to what I’m saying anymore, just like God. They’re both preprogrammed to a default setting, running forward blindly.”
  • Brother John tries to convince Abigail’s parents that they need to focus on God only.  When Abigail and Aaron become a distraction, Brother John said, “God asked us to cut away the withered branches in our lives. That’s what I know.” When Abigail’s father leaves to go help his son, Brother John said, “go ahead and leave, but God isn’t going to let you come back in.”

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