I received this book for free from Publicist in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Published by David Fickling Books on September 3rd 2015
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.
Review: Jenny Downham is one of my must-read authors, her contemporary YA is always thought-provoking, feels authentic and is beautifully written. Therefore, it’s fair to say Unbecoming was a highly anticipated 2015 read for me.
What I love about Unbecoming is the fact that this isn’t a story about one character, but about three generations of women, each with their own secrets and fears and hopes. Considering the popularity of the ‘absent parent’ device in YA, it is refreshing to see a YA book about family relationships ,and one that doesn’t remove the ability to empower its teenage characters through those relationships.
Katie’s relationship with her grandmother felt very honest and was a highlight of the book. They develop a strong relationship after a more uncertain start and it’s something I’d like to see more as it’s a relationship not always explored so much in YA to my knowledge and yet one I’m sure many teenagers value.
Mary’s story felt the strongest to me and the difficulty of wanting to remember secrets, not remember secrets and the horror of your own mind and memories seeming to destroy and lose them terrifies me. Mary was the character who I felt stood out the most, both in the sense that she drives the conflict and plot significantly but also because she felt like the character with the most development to me.
Katie’s arc was well done as she tries to juggle a rapidly complex family life, helping Mary figure out her mysteries and secrets and trying to be true to herself and who she wants to be as well.
Caroline was an interesting character. I really disliked her for a lot of the book and felt her treatment of Mary was cruel, but when you learn more about her perspective it allows you to understand her motivations a lot more and it’s clear she’s been through a lot too. It was a little hard however to see how cold she was with Mary at the beginning, however in hindsight the pressure of raising children, working and then caring for someone who may require significant care due to their health would be exceptionally daunting, even without the family history!
While Unbecoming may seem a little quiet in terms of conflict, it’s a beautiful, compelling read about family, what makes family and being true to yourself. This is a great book and one I would recommend to contemporary YA fans with little hesitation.