Unraveling…and rebuilding

Unraveling by Michelle Baldini and Lynn Biederman; published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.  New York.  2008.  230 pages.

unravelingAmanda “Himmelfart” Himmelfarb struggles with everything from her dysfunctional family (especially her mother, “The Captain,” and her sister, “Malady”) to her dysfunctional body (frizzy hair, untimely menstrual disasters and lack of gross motor skills).  In an attempt to redeem her self-esteem, she makes compromises and cuts deals.  Most of those efforts revolve around sex—she is an adolescent, after all.  In the end, her attempts backfire and hurt her, her family and her friendships, but result in an unexpected connection with her mother.  Unraveling is written in Amanda’s voice.  It is witty, sad, and funny.  Although the supporting characters were rather one-dimensional, their development was not important to the story because it reads more like a diary.

Initially, although the story absolutely absorbed me, I thought the rather graphic sexual descriptions were gratuitous and unnecessary.  But as I think of this in terms of adolescent girls, the descriptions are necessary to fully express the depth of the emotional trauma Amanda experiences.  Baldini’s and Biederman’s descriptions build to fully describe the blow to Amanda’s self-esteem that couldn’t be accomplished otherwise.  Unraveling feels like a true story about the treacherous path girls have to follow through adolescence: changing family dynamics, daily attacks on self-esteem, and dealing with raging hormones.  The authors’ use of fortune cookie fortunes is an unusual way of providing a glimpse into Amanda’s psyche.  Occasionally, I noticed a shift in style that made it apparent that two people wrote this book, but that did not occur often enough to distract me from the story. 

In another SLIS course, we discussed the need to provide materials about sexuality and identity in the young adult section.  I believe this book is a necessary addition to a YA collection, and pathfinders about sex, as it realistically portrays the problems encountered while navigating adolescence.  I also think this book will have appeal to teen girls who might feel like they are the only ones experiencing the awkwardness and isolation of growing up.

4P     3Q     Grades 10-12

Cover Art: After reading the book, I “got” the cover art but it did not fully convey the story.  I expected the story to revolve around mishaps at the prom based on the cover when it really was so much more.  Girls might be attracted to the pretty purple text and the lovely lavender dress but I really don’t think this cover works.

From Reading List: “Keepin’ It Real” realistic fiction

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