Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Book Club #24 - Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Sometimes, I feel like I should point you all in the direction of Dannie's blog and leave it at that. Most of my book reviews start life as Dannie telling me I would like a book, and pretty much every time I have loved it. I guess you can kind of guess how this review is going - Unbecoming by Jenny Downham is an amazing YA novel that I think should be essential reading for most people. 

Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story. Katie, seventeen, is in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers. As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic? In confronting the past, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love. Funny, sad, honest and wise, Unbecoming is a celebration of life, and learning to honour your own stories. 
After finding myself struggling to read I Love Dick as quickly as I'd hoped, I managed to read Unbecoming within a few days - stopping only to spend quality time with Joe during our trip to Glasgow. I found each character to be complex, with Downham taking the time to really go into detail about them, rather than using their characteristics as a gimmick. Mary suffers from severe memory loss due to Alzheimers and after experiencing this first hand when my poor Grandad had to come and live with us when he became affected by sever Alzheimers, I felt like Downham had really understood the heartbreak, confusion and pain this illness can cause. All three main characters were tormented by demons of some sort - Mary, unable to remember the important details; Caroline struggling to forgive her mother for something in the past, and letting it affect her care duties; and Katie - a young girl who unsure of herself and her feelings - but they were all given plenty of space to develop and let the reader know a little bit more to their story.

One aspect I really enjoyed was when we were transported back in time to a memory of Mary's. Her fire and desire to have fun really brought some much needed colour to the story and helped to lighten the story. These parts are of course really key to unravelling the mystery poisoning the air between Caroline and Mary, and as you get deeper into the book, they become less about Mary's young antics and more about this painful secret. I honestly didn't suspect what the mystery would be, or any extra twists near the end, but they were brilliantly delivered and didn't take anything away from the story at all.

Overall, I couldn't recommend Unbecoming more if I tried! Have you read it?

Chelsea xo
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