Saturday, August 04, 2012

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.

Julie Schumacher's website is

The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls by Julie Schumacher. Delacorte Press. 2012. ISBN 9780385737739 (hardcover), 231p.

FTC Full Disclosure - Library book


bermudaonion said...

That sounds like just the kind of YA novel I love!

Lesa said...


It was terrific. Not the kind of angst in so many novels. It was actually funny in parts.

allisonmariecat said...

So glad you snagged that one - I never would have picked it up otherwise, but your review has convinced me.

Lesa said...

I'm glad I did, too, Allison. It was fun.

Kaye Barley said...

Lesa, this is one of those books I'm never would have heard about if it weren't for you. It sounds delightful and I look forward to reading it. Thanks!!!!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Kaye. Sometimes I'm lucky to stumble across interesting books. The joy of the library! Hugs, my friend!

Jane R said...

My daughter and I took part in a mother-daughter book. That's when we decided that we'd rather talk about books with each other, instead of with a group (since most of them had only read the book jacket anyway). That started a sharing of books with my little girl and even though she's an adult, we still share books and give each other reviews. Thanks for letting me walk down memory lane (and I'm going to pick up this book for both of us to read!).

Ingrid King said...

This sounds wonderful! Thanks for the review, Lesa.