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Unbecoming, by Jenny Downham

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 2:35pm by manz

In Unbecoming, by Jenny Downham., we meet three generations of red-headed women, all with their own secrets and stories.

Seventeen year old Katie lives with her uptight mother Caroline and her younger brother, until one day Caroline’s Mother Mary abruptly comes into their lives. Estranged for years, Caroline does not want her mother to come live with them, even though she is suffering from dementia and needs care. As she temporarily stays with the family while social services sorts things out, everyone’s world turn upside down in different ways. On top of caring for her brother, and now her grandmother, Katie struggles to please her mother and keep secret who she’s been kissing. Caroline tries desperately to keep the past in the past and shove Mary away, while Mary tries so hard to remember her past as she wakes up daily wondering who these people are that she’s living with.

Wonderfully crafted, the book mostly stays in present day, but shifts back to Mary’s young adult life. The truth begins to unfold a rich family history of strong women who are either trying to break the rules or trying hard to follow them and keep things quiet and uneventful. Mary will have none of it! She wishes for adventure. If only she could remember.

It is an absolutely touching YA novel and it was a pleasure to spend time with these characters finding their place within their family and in the world. I would love to have a picnic with Mary on the beach.

The Stonewall Book Award is given annually to English-language children’s and young adult books of exceptional merit relating to the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender experience. This year there was one winner and three honors – one of which was Unbecoming.

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