Monday, June 8, 2009

Unraveling Review

Before I get to the review, confession time: I am addicted to taking books out of the library.

Yes, it is bad. And no, this addiction isn't entirely free. See, the problem is that I go to the library almost every single day. And I take out a book every time I go. Usually more than one book. But see I already have all these books out. And I can't POSSIBLY read them all. And then I forget to return them. And then I get fined 25 cents a day. And then I return them and let the money owed on my account pile up to around 10 bucks before I pay it off. And the cycle continues, over and over again.

I have literally had some books for like nine weeks.

I have over 30 library books checked out right now.

I just can't stop. HELP ME!

Phew, good to get that off my chest. Feel free to start organizing the intervention because God knows I need it.

Ironically, Unraveling is a book I own. I need to read those library books!

On to the review.

Unraveling by Michelle Baldini and Lynn Biederman


Amanda Himmelfarb doesn't mean to cause trouble, it just seems to follow her around. Of course, having her overbearing mother constantly in her business doesn't help either. Amanda and her mother, nicknamed "The Captain" are constantly fighting and it's wearing Amanda down. If only Amanda could find the perfect boyfriend, the one person who would understand her and love her like she's yearning to be loved. Amanda thought she found that with last year's summer crush, Paul, but she actually might have a better chance with Rick, who is currently dating the most popular girl in school. There is only one way to be Rick's girlfriend and Amanda is willing to do whatever it takes.

That description sucks but I don't really want to spoil it. The book is so much more than a girl trying to get a guy. In fact it's not even about that at all.

This is a book I never would have chosen from the cover. I don't know why, but I really don't like the cover. To me it looks like some messed up version of Cinderella book. And completely turns me off. I can't explain why I don't like it so much. I just find it annoying! But this is a case where judging a book by its cover is BAD BAD BAD. This novel is wonderful.

I picked it up because of a review I read somewhere else but I really had no expectations going into it. Once I started reading, I was hooking. This is such an honest and painfully raw story. I felt like the book opened up the world and dumped me into Amanda's brain. At the same time, I knew I was reading the story of many girls, teenagers who actually exist today and who are doing the things that Amanda does and feeling the same way. Beyond that, I was reading the story of a mother who was just as lost as her daughter. Together, the whole family was trapped in a net of emotions and events from the past and just wouldn't let them go. Unraveling, at it's core, is a powerful family novel about learning, strength and forgiveness.

Amanda is such a vibrant, intelligent, at times pathetic, at times wonderful, all-around-not-so-bad-girl-struggling-to-be-good character that it's hard not to root for her even when she's being a complete bonehead. The novel is nicely punctuated by her poems that really get to the heart of the various episodes in Amanda's life. The rest of her family are wonderfully realized on the page-- I especially thought Amanda's relationship with her little sister Melody was well-written and reminded me of my own little sister. I should write her a poem too!

Dear Sister

A poem by Summer

I love you
And I want to talk to you
Please do not contact me only
When you want to ask for money.

There was a lot of humor in this book but also a lot of awkward moments which had me cringing and also moments full of high tension, anger and sadness. The dialogue was sparkling throughout the book. The parts that hit me hardest where the fights between Amanda's mom and dad and then Amanda's reaction afterward. I thought that was well done.

I really admired the pacing of the book. So much happens to Amanda but it is a relatively quick read and just over 220 pages. I never felt like the book was rushing and I was happy to move along at a steady clip. Time moves smoothly and then we're right back in the action. I could tell the book had been picked clean of anything unnecessary and it really showed. Every scene contributed to the story and was a joy to read.

I wondered if at times the book was being too preachy. This love-starved girl looking for love in all the wrong places-- is it too obvious? Are the literature recommendations too much? (Amanda and her BFF, Paige, love to read and some favorites are mentioned.) The reader can easily understand where Amanda's mother is coming from but Amanda cannot. I wondered if the book was trying too hard to get it's point across. My conclusion to my questions is just a simple "no." Part of the joy of reading the book was being able to be inside of Amanda's head but also outside of it and able to see what was really going on. It made her confusion even more heartbreaking and all of her revelations about herself more urgent. I feel like this book existed in so many layers that different readers will interpret it on different levels. That is definitely why they recommend it as a mother-daughter book club selection on the back. I feel like it was meant to be read that way and you can find a lot of talking points from these pages.

I always write these reviews in post-book euphoria, like yay! I actually finished something! This is a book that will stick with me even after the glossy high fades. Highly enjoyable read with a lot to say. I find it to be an important take on mother-daughter relationships, self-esteem and the cycle of physical and emotional abuse. You should check this book out. Highly recommended.

Now I need to call my mom!

1 comment:

  1. I did the library thing alot when I was in school. By that time, I think I'd read everything (adult romance) my library had to offer and was ready to go read new books. So I started going to the bookstore instead. I seriously love my BN Preferred Reader's Card. Not to mention the coupons I get in my InBox. My husband still has yet to figure out that getting me the same thing every year for Birthday/Christmas/Valentine's Day/Anniversary--a GC to BN--is not "same old, same old." I'm such an easy person to shop for, he shouldn't complain. It could be worse: I could expect diamonds.