November 18, 2017

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Unbecoming by Jenny Downham | SLJ Audio Review

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redstarDOWNHAM, Jenny. Unbecoming. Preloaded digital audio player. 14:14 hrs. Mar. 2016. Scholastic. $30. ISBN 9780545945905.

AU-Downham-unbecomingGr 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. VERDICT A highly recommended, notable performance of an immensely noteworthy title. [“A strong choice for thoughtful readers”: SLJ 12/15 starred review of the Scholastic/David Fickling book.]–Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC

This review was published in the School Library Journal February 2017 issue.

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