Unbecoming

by Jenny Downham

Teenage Katie’s mom, Caroline, resents having to care for her estranged mother,... read more

Teenage Katie’s mom, Caroline, resents having to care for her estranged mother, Mary, who has dementia. But for Katie, shunned socially since kissing her former best friend, spending time with the grandmother she is getting to know is a welcome distraction. Katie is trying to wade through her grandmother’s vanishing memory, and butting up against her mother’s unwillingness to talk about the past. But flashbacks illuminate the two women’s divide and the parallels between their lives: Mary and Caroline both feel guilty about a number of things, including choices they made as parents. Katie finds herself drawn to Mary, who is kind, and whose comfortable sexuality as a young woman is the opposite of what Katie feels as she contemplates her attraction to Simona, a classmate rumored to be lesbian. Katie realizes how much between her mother and grandmother has gone unsaid or been misunderstood, and that important things in her own childhood have been kept hidden. This becomes part of the inspiration to speak her own truth as she finds the courage to come out. A quiet yet riveting novel captures the complexities and absolute messiness of feelings among characters who are neither right nor wrong, just vivid and real as they move toward greater openness and acknowledgement of the love they feel. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2017

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