Monday, April 9, 2012

Book Review: Girl Unmoored

By Melissa Amster

It's not often that I read novels about adolescent girls when my main literary focus is women in their 20s through 40s. However, once in a while a story about a young girl will come along that I will feel compelled to read. Previously, it was "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt," which took us to the south in the 1960's. Now there's "Girl Unmoored" by Jennifer Gooch Hummer, which takes us to the coast of Maine in the 1980s, a time that should have been simpler, but shows us how far we've really come. It's told though the eyes of Apron, a 13 year-old girl on the brink of maturity.

Apron Bramhall's mother has passed away and her father is already trying to replace her with a woman Apron hates. Her best friend has left her for someone more popular. No one appreciates her flair for Latin. The only one she has to turn to is Jesus...or at least the guy playing him in a local musical production, whom she sees wherever she goes. "Jesus," a.k.a. Mike and his boyfriend Chad hire Apron to work in their flower shop, which gives her a new purpose but also comes with other truths about life and love.

Initially, I did not know what to expect from this novel. I was wondering if I'd be able to relate to Apron since we're so far apart in age. However, Apron reminded me of myself when I was her age. I remembered that feeling of loneliness so well. I was jealous of her for having not only one, but two gay best friends, even though they were also a lot older than her. If I knew then what I know now, I'd be seeking out gay best friends left and right. I loved how genuine Mike and Chad were and how they looked after Apron and loved her unconditionally. They also provided some comic relief with their banter and jokes. I also liked the other characters and all their quirks. Even though M was the "villain," I still liked how she was played out to be likable one moment and despicable the next. Grandma Bramhall was really funny and entertaining, as well. Ms. Hummer gave off a nice feel for the season too, describing the sticky heat of summer in all its glory. I felt like having an ice cold drink after reading it.

I know this is Ms. Hummer's debut novel, and going along with that were some things that needed polishing. I found a lot of errors and inconsistencies, such as the way names were spelled from one chapter to the next, as well as other spelling and grammar mistakes that should have been caught before going to print. Also, I would not have known this took place in 1985 until I was almost a third of the way into the book, and even then it was just implied. I did have a heads up beforehand, but if I didn't, I would have been all thrown off because the year wasn't clearly established at the beginning. I wasn't a fan of the descriptive language that Ms. Hummer used at times, such as "mustard squeezed into my stomach." I know it was Apron's quirky way of talking and I have a feeling some others might find it cute and clever. It just wasn't easy for me to picture such strange descriptions. It also seemed like Ms. Hummer wanted us to be in on some secret, like we were supposed to know what was going on at all times, even though it wasn't always that clear. Finally, I would have liked to know more about Apron's relationship with her mother. Apron was old enough to remember her mother by the time she passed away, so she could rely on her own memory to paint us a picture of their lives together.

Overall, I really liked reading about Apron and all the other people in her life. It was a beautiful story about love, even when there was some ugliness involved. I felt a true kinship with Apron throughout and would have loved to be friends with her if I had known her at that time in real life. (I also would have been friends with Mike and Chad.) I also noticed what a page turner it was, as I kept wanting to come back to it, even when I had limited time to read. The pages went by so fast that I could hardly believe how far I had gotten in the story without any effort. (In other words, it didn't drag at all.) Not only would I recommend this to other readers who might normally shy away from a story that has a young adult feel to it, but I also am recommending it to my mother, and I only share the really good stories with her!

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