There is strong language in PULL, it is not rated G or PG. I understand that there are concerns about the use of this book in some classrooms and I was asked for my feedback when I visited a classroom recently.
First, no kid who doesn’t use curse words will start because he reads this book. Pull will not send any kid out for his or her first drink or talk them into engaging in sexual activities for the first time. Movies, cable TV and video games, not to mention peers and parental example, are the powers in those areas.
But many kids who suffer from self-esteem issues may find themselves on the pages. Kids who have lost someone they loved may find their pain is not unique and that help exists. Kids and adults suffering from the effects of domestic violence will get a glimpse of what that can lead to and decide to seek help and change their future. And everyone can get a really good story and see how people who appear different are really very much like themselves.
Yes, the protagonist is an angry seventeen-year-old male and his vocabulary reflects that. But as one student told me during a recent school visit, “it wouldn’t feel real without that.”
I recently spoke with a Middle School Librarian and I was ready to tell her not to put PULL on her shelves for fear of 6th grade readers. She’s the one who pushed back. Her argument, “If all we have are books safe for 6th graders, what will the 8th graders read?” If PULL can be a valuable asset to 8th graders, it is even more valuable to high schools.
Booklist called PULL a “Good discussion book,” and so it is. The teacher’s guide being put together covers items related to a number of curriculum areas.
My final comment comes from an 8th grade boy in New Jersey, a young man described by his teacher as a reluctant reader. When given a copy of PULL as his reading assignment he actually asked for more time to keep reading. Then, he not only told his teacher the book was “better than cable” he asked for another one like it. If I were the parent or teacher of a reluctant reader, I would fight form any book that could inspire a kid that much.