The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher
Sometimes it's the title that catches my eye. I was unpacking a box of new young adult books the other day, and came across Julie Schumacher's The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls. I told my teen librarian he could have the others, but that one was mine. I'm glad I claimed it.
Adrienne Haus' problems began when she fell at school just before summer vacation, fractured her kneecap, tore her ACL, and ruined her plans to go to summer camp with her best friend. Instead, she's stuck with three other girls whose mothers decided they should have a mother-daughter book club during the summer so the teens would all read books for their AP English 11 class. Adrienne relates the story of their misadventures in this book, putting it in the form of her required essay for that class. Her thesis statement? "Book clubs can kill you."
The girls would have never been friends during the school year, and they rubbed each other the wrong way when they were first thrown together. CeeCee Christenssen was part of the "ruling class of glamorous despots". Jill D'Amato was working at the swim club during the summer, and warned Adrienne that CeeCee was experimenting on her. Wallis, the fourth one in the group, was younger than fifteen, having skipped a grade or two. And, Adrienne, the daughter of a single mother, was the one who felt lost and unsure of herself during the summer. In the course of the summer, Adrienne is constantly in trouble, accepting CeeCee's invitations, ideas that turn out bad, such as sneaking out of the house at 2:30 in the morning to play miniature golf.
Adrienne's essay must demonstrate her understanding of at least twenty literary terms, and explain how her book choices affected her. So, the book is written in chapters with headings such as 1. Setting; 17. Climax. She defines each term in relation to the story, and then the chapter explains what happened. It was a terrific way to combine a writing assignment with this story. There's even the bibliography Adrienne was required to include, along with a brief description of the books read, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc.
This is a teen novel, so naturally, there's a great deal of confusion, and a tragedy. All of the girls have issues that are uncovered in the course of the book, although there are questions left unanswered. However, these are teen girls, and only Adrienne seems to see what really happens. The book was filled with odd statements and humor that made me laugh aloud. Take Jill's comment. "People give older kids up for adoption all the time. I think there's a law that lets you drop them off in Nebraska." When Adrienne questions if people can really drop their kids off, Jill responds, "Yeah. I guess they have extra room out there."
The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is a rich book, filled with great characters, discussions of the books, and comparisons of the books to life. And, I have to say that CeeCee, even as she led Adrienne into trouble, just made me laugh. Even CeeCee had a hidden problem, though, that Adrienne only discovered late in the summer.
Schumacher's book is a teen novel, but more and more adults are finding the richness in teen literature. The characters, the format, the discussion of books captivated me. And, then there was Adrienne herself, a wonderful narrator, a confused teen, and a girl who discovers how much she loves the books she's reading. "I still loved opening a book and feeling like I was physically entering the page, the ordinary world fizzing and blurring around the edges until it disappeared." Schumacher makes the world fizz and blur and disappear in The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls.
I have been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now, Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. I am a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal, Mystery Readers Journal, ReadertoReader.com and VibrantNation.com. Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer. First Fan Guest of Honor for Desert Sleuths Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Write Now! Conference.
It's an honor to be asked to review books, and I'm grateful to all the publishers, publicists, and authors who send me books. Thank you. Reviews will appear on my blog if I've had a chance to read, and finish, the book. If I do not finish a book, I won't review it, and I will not respond to emails asking when, or if, I'll be reviewing a book.
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My Oct. 19, 2009 blog provides full disclosure that I only receive review copies of books, with no other compensation. All review copies are marked as such. If there any any questions, please feel free to contact me.