Friday, November 07, 2008


Baldini, Michelle and Lynn Biederman. 2008. Unraveling. [Poems by Gabrielle Biederman]

The first Chinese fortune I collected the summer I hooked up with Paul--the guy some might consider my first--read: The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected. I should have taken it more seriously. Fortunes can be like little instructions for life; they may not fit yours at that particular moment, after that particular meal of kung pao chicken, but eventually they will. Trust me on this.

I loved Amanda Himmelfarb. I just loved her. With the same amount of passion that I loved Amanda, I hated her mother. "The Captain." Every time she entered a scene, I wanted to yell "boo!" I think that is partly because Amanda is so sympathetically drawn. She's just likeable. But I do think in part it's because Amanda feels like such a kindred spirit to me. I have felt her pain. I have been in her shoes. The whole eternally-miscommunicating-with-your-mother and finding-solace-in-writing poetry aspect of the novel. Even Amanda's relationship with her sister, Melody (aka Malady) felt all too real to me. She had her moments of jealous indignation. Another eery similarity? Amanda has an ally or advocate in her aunt. She feels her aunt "gets her" better than her mother. (Now, we are different in many ways. But at the core I felt we were more alike than different.)

If ever a mother treated her daughter like enemy #1 it's The Captain. Amanda doesn't stand a chance of having her mother's approval or love or affection for even a few brief seconds a day. Is it any wonder that Amanda is always on the defensive?

Amanda's story turns humilating right from the start. There are plenty of angst-filled moments. Plenty of embarrassing moments. Plenty of humor...mostly at Amanda's expense. In a way equivalent to when you have to hide your eyes when you're watching an embarrassing scene unfold in a teen flick.

The novel does focus on her family. But it also focuses on her "love life." The first boy who is in the picture is Paul. The second boy is Rick. Both boys are insignificant except that they teach Amanda a few lessons about life, love, and the opposite sex. (These portions do get a bit graphic.)

This one definitely falls into the category of coming-of-age. She's going on a journey to find herself and to love herself.

One of my favorite aspects of the novel are Amanda's poems.

Sometimes I wish I were you,
grades, proud parents, perfect vision.
Sometimes I wish we could switch roles,
if jealousy didn't stand in our path.
Sometimes I wish I had a sister to talk to,
for advice, to tell a story, just because.
Sometimes I wish I had a shoulder to cry on,
one that is related, one that would relate.
Sometimes I wish that we could be sisters
because we want to, not because we have to.
Sometimes I wish that I could make time turn around,
to gather back something that maybe never was,
But somehow should have always been.

I loved so many things about this one. It was a novel that danced around hope. It had its moments of anger and jealousy and hate and confusion and pure-angst. But it never lost hints of hope. Hope. Grace. Redemption.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Abby said...

Oooh, I've got this one at home and I'll definitely pick it up this weekend. It sounds great!

Laura H said...

I read it this weekend. I was not all impressed. Kind of graphic for YA.