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Unbecoming
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Unbecoming
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Three women—three secrets—one heart-stopping story. Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past...
Three women—three secrets—one heart-stopping story. Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past...
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  • Three women—three secrets—one heart-stopping story. Katie, seventeen, 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 is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, 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.

 

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Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from November 23, 2015
    Downham (You Against Me) examines the family battles and internal conflicts of three generations of women in this novel about a household in crisis. Seventeen-year-old Katie’s life takes an unexpected turn when her estranged grandmother Mary, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, moves into their small apartment. While Katie’s mother tries to find another place for Mary to stay, Katie is drawn to the elderly stranger, a woman tormented by a past she can’t reliably remember. Even though Katie already has her share of responsibilities, trying to meet her mother’s high standards and looking after her disabled brother, she offers to become Mary’s caretaker. She is determined to unlock secrets about Mary’s history but doesn’t realize how her own past is intertwined with her grandmother’s. Alternating between Katie’s and Mary’s point of view, Downham shows extraordinary skill in expressing the complex psychologies of two very different women while exploring how people are shaped by events, unrealized dreams, and restrictions. The more answers Katie finds, the more she realizes that she will have to become someone new in order to be true to herself. Ages 14–up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Associates.

  • AudioFile Magazine Author-narrator Jenny Downham distinguishes the lives of three family members, never losing a sense of time or character. Seventeen-year-old Katie is very dependable--at least, that's how her working mother, Caroline, sees her. But Downham reveals roiling emotions that existed inside Katie even before, Mary, her estranged grandmother, comes to live with them. Now, Katie is confused by her mother's initially cold reception of her mother, and by her mother's later protectiveness toward the woman, who is slipping into dementia. Just as convincingly, Downham captures Mary's chaotic memories and enduring guilt and Caroline's painful memories of the past. Downham's successful dramatization of the characters and their secrets evokes varying perspectives on memory and honesty. S.W. © AudioFile 2016, Portland, Maine
  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2017

    Gr 9 Up-Although Mary, Caroline, and Katie are three very different generations in the same family, suddenly living under the same roof forces them to confront a complicated past that has kept them estranged for decades. Mary is the grandmother, newly widowed, fighting the dementia that is clouding and tangling memories. Caroline is her angry daughter, unforgiving of the long estrangement and unwilling to work toward a reunited future. Katie is Caroline's hopeful daughter and Mary's devoted granddaughter, who at 17 is learning who she is and who she refuses to be any longer. Despite rifts, misunderstandings, and lies, Katie will prove that the bonds of family are everlasting. London-based Downham (Before I Die) voices her third novel, which means she knows exactly how and where to increase the emotion and breathe a little distance into the conflicts. Her ability to seamlessly embody multiple generations is immediately evident (Downham is a former actress), while her tender characterization of the elderly Mary is the most empathy-inducing of all.

    Copyright 2017 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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