Saturday, April 25, 2009

My Life as a Rhombus Review

Note to Self: Do not return the book to the library until you've written the review. LOL

My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson

Rhonda Lee has one more year in high school and she has her head on straight. There is no room for distraction as she works her way towards a full scholarship at her dream school Georgia Tech. Rhonda is a smart girl with an affinity for math and she uses her talents to tutor kids after school. Despite her strict "no high schoolers" rule Rhonda is forced to tutor Sarah Gamble, a pretty, popular girl at her prep school whom Rhonda's despises. As Rhonda spends more time with Sarah she soon realizes that they share the same secret. Sarah's pregnant just like Rhonda was three years ago.

This book is exactly the type of book I love to read. First of all I'm a big fan of "problem" novels and teenage pregnancy is a huge issue. But this novel is about much more than a couple of teenage pregnancies. It's about friendship, love, honesty, forgiveness, father-daughter relationships and there's a few other themes you could glean from the pages. The writing is crisp abd inviting. The characters and dialogue are vibrant and believable. The geometry framing of the novel just blew my mind. Trigonometry started to come back to me! Congruent angles and all of that.

Most of all, the book is about suburban black teenagers which I really enjoy, coming from that type of background. But this is a book anyone can relate to, no matter where you come from. This is evidenced by the fact the book is written by a man who has never been pregnant or a teenage girl. Rhonda's voice is so strong through out the novel, so authentic, and that's what really drew me in. You can see all the sides of Rhonda, the cracks her facade before she even realizes it. The multilayeredness of the narrative is impressive and enriching.

Rhonda's various relationships were the heart and soul of the story. It was heartbreaking to learn how Rhonda's relationship with her dad changed after her pregnancy and you could tell there was a lot of love between them even though her dad was lacking with the physical affection. The way this changed throughout the book was one plot point that kept me turning the pages. Rhonda and Sarah become fast friends, bonded by circumstance, but Sarah's brother David really steals the show as Rhonda develops some serious feelings for him and finds that they are reciprocated. The romance between Rhonda and David and tender but most importantly, honest. Rhonda experiences a lot of temptation when she falls for David and this is a main component of her inner struggles.

Teenage pregnancy is no stranger to YA literature and it's always interesting to see how it plays out. This novel provides an compelling view of abortion and how it could affect someones view of the future. There is no preaching in this book and personal opinions about abortion are expressed only though the characters. I thought the book did a great job as coming off a neutral but at the same time it didn't shy away from the thoughts and feelings that could occur for a young woman in this situation. I really appreciated this sensitive portrayal.

Not only was the book sad and heartfelt and touching but it was also funny and I found myself rooting for quite a few people except for Sarah Gamble's mother. I really recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a fine example of YA lit across all cultures and topics. I'm really happy I got a chance to read it.

The paperback version I read has a great discussion section in the back so make sure to check that out. I wanted to quote something but I returned the book! So you'll just have to go read it.

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