cover image Unbecoming


Jenny Downham. Scholastic/Fickling, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-545-90717-0

Downham (You Against Me) examines the family battles and internal conflicts of three generations of women in this novel about a household in crisis. Seventeen-year-old Katie’s life takes an unexpected turn when her estranged grandmother Mary, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, moves into their small apartment. While Katie’s mother tries to find another place for Mary to stay, Katie is drawn to the elderly stranger, a woman tormented by a past she can’t reliably remember. Even though Katie already has her share of responsibilities, trying to meet her mother’s high standards and looking after her disabled brother, she offers to become Mary’s caretaker. She is determined to unlock secrets about Mary’s history but doesn’t realize how her own past is intertwined with her grandmother’s. Alternating between Katie’s and Mary’s point of view, Downham shows extraordinary skill in expressing the complex psychologies of two very different women while exploring how people are shaped by events, unrealized dreams, and restrictions. The more answers Katie finds, the more she realizes that she will have to become someone new in order to be true to herself. Ages 14–up. Agent: Catherine Clarke, Felicity Bryan Associates. (Feb.)