a brief chapter in my impossible life by Dana Reinhardt
I proudly announce the first of my Best Books of 2006! It's beautifully written and a wonderful exploration of family.
The Plot: Simone is a junior in high school. She thinks her life is full and complete: Mom's an ACLU lawyer, Dad's a political cartoonist; she has good friends, and her younger brother Jake just started high school. The family defines normal, and her problems fall under that category also: what club to join at school? what to do about her best friends new relationship, with a guy Simone doesn't like? especially when her friend starts sleeping with him? and what about the guy Simone may like, who works at the coffee counter and may or may not have a girlfriend? Then another problem falls into her lap. Her parents announce that Rivka wants to get in contact with Simone.
Rivka -- Simone's birth mother. Simone has no desire to find out anything about Rivka; she's quite satisfied with life as she knows it. But her parents won't let it go and now Simone is getting answers to questions she never wanted to ask.
The Good: Simone and Jake have a great sister/brother relationship, one of the closest I've seen in a teen book in a while. The parents/teenager relationship is also positive.
Simone's family is proudly atheist. That's not something one usually sees in a teen book. When Simone starts questioning, part of what she questions is this "unshakable belief in the absence of a higher power." This is not a book about religion; but it is a book about belief, and about being able to ask questions. I found it especially refreshing that Simone's questioning is about Simone trying to figure things out; it is not about rebellion. Simone's family is close enough and loving enough that she can safely ask those questions and seek answers -- safe in that she isn't risking her family's love.
Simone finding out about her birth mother, and learning Rivka's story, parallels things going on Simone's life and helps her understand more about her own life. I like it when the stories that seem to have nothing to do with each other end up complementing each other. As Simone learns more about Rivka, she starts seeing and appreciating other perspectives. Personally, I think that is a key component of a young adult book; the main character moving from thinking there is only one valid perspective towards realizing that different people have unique and equally valid points of view.