Firstly, I’m back after my blogging hiatus (due to mock exams) so yay! I thought I’d kick my return off with a review of what has to be one of my favourite books of 2015 – Unbecoming, by the brilliant Jenny Downham.
After hearing bloggers and critics alike rave about this book I knew I had to give it a try and it did not disappoint. It is centred around 17 year old Katie battling with a secret she can’t bear to tell anyone, her mother Caroline who’s trying to escape a past catching up with her and her grandmother Mary who suffers from Alzheimer’s and is hell-bent on revealing every family secret they had all so carefully buried. Flashbacks are intertwined with present day drama, creating mystery and distrust with every character, between every character, Downham knows how to keep a reader gripped (I read it non-stop over 2 days) and delivers a satisfying ending that isn’t all sunshine & rainbows but rather ties loose ends up in a bow but still leaves room for the reader to come to their own conclusions.
One aspect I simply adored about Unbecoming is Katie’s storyline. Katie is in love with a girl and while so many writers would have made that the central storyline, Downham didn’t. She made it important but not overpowering. She explored an area previously undiscovered by others in YA by writing about an LGBT character but didn’t turn her story into an LGBT book (not that there’s anything wrong with an LGBT book of course!) Katie’s storyline was both heart-breaking, as she learnt the truth about her family, and hopeful, as she came to terms with herself and looked forward to the future.
Downham has a history of dealing with tough topics through her writing and tackling Alzheimer’s, particularly in a YA novel, took some guts. She didn’t glamorise it, and made it feel like she had done research to tell a story as truthful as she could. There were some aspects of Alzheimer’s which she could have used, and had ample opportunity to, but ultimately this was a book about a variety of things, not just one.
This book was a carousel of motherhood, secrets, lies, love, guilt and familial loyalty and served as a rollercoaster of a read. Unbecoming is definitely one of my top YA reads.
Rating: 5 stars.