Saturday, April 30, 2005

Unexpected Development

I just finished reading Unexpected Development by Marlene Perez.

Perez's novel is funny, touching, and serious. The book's framing device is an essay she's writing in Senior Honors English: "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." (Megan agrees with you that it is a very lame assignment, particularly for an Honors class.) Since this is entirely in first person, the humor comes not from situations but from Megan's voice (sarcastic, funny, insightful) and her view of things.

Body image is central to this book: Megan has big breasts; since fifth grade, guys don't look above the collarbone. Megan deals with this by using humor, oversized clothing, and saving for breast reduction surgery. It was hurtful to read how many guys thought that Megan's chest size invited rude comments and allowed for touching. Her belief that guys are interested in her physical developments is shown as having some basis (freshman year started with an unwanted groping), but this summer her crush, Jake, is showing interest. Can Megan trust him? Can she trust her own feelings?

What is refreshing about this book: Megan's problems aren't solved overnight. By the end, she is more comfortable with the size of her chest and wearing clothes that aren't as loose & baggy, but she still isn't wearing clothes that fit. Perhaps I watch a little too much What Not To Wear, but I half expected a scene where Megan found out the problem was she was wearing the wrong size bra! That didn't happen, and her makeover was not so much a makeover as Megan becoming a little more comfortable with her body. What is also refreshing is the treatment of surgery: its treated seriously and respectfully. It's not dismissed as superficial.

Also with the like: the treatment of teen sex and sexuality, and Megan's own confusion over what she wants and what she wants. There are no rights or wrongs, just a lot of believable confusion.

Former lawyers have to be less picky about some details: I wanted the "groper" to pay! In court! And even though I know its realistic that people like that get away with what they do, I wanted justice. I wanted him sent to Oz.


Anonymous said...

I loved UNEXPECTED DEVELOPMENT too! I happened to have read a very first draft of this book, and even way back them, Megan's voice was a standout. She's a memorable and lovable character, who like you said, is very believable.

ha! I wanted the groper to pay too. But I'm glad Marlene dealt with it all realistically.

Mary E. Pearson

Anonymous said...

Ooh, ooh, you're an Oz fan too! It started screening here last year and I'm hooked. I think we're up to season 3.

Liz B said...

Mary, I can't wait to see what Marlene writes next.

Judith, Oz is so groundbreaking and innovative. The O'Reillys, Keller & Beecher, struggles for redemption... so much good stuff.