Thursday, August 18, 2011

It's Not What You Expect by Norma Klein

Carla doesn't know what this summer is going to be like. Usually she and her twin brother, Oliver, head to camp, but this year isn't like other years. Their father has just moved out and their parents aren't giving any explanation why. Now he lives in New York, has grown a beard, and might even have a girlfriend. Does that mean their mom is going to start dating? To keep themselves busy, Carla and Oliver and their older brother Ralph open a restaurant: he cooks and she's the maitre d'. It's a big success, but then they're distracted by Ralph's girlfriend's news - she's pregnant. Carla feels herself growing apart from her twin, and she's not sure that she likes it. Life, love, relationships - it's not what you expect.

(Some spoilers, but I don't think it will really impact reading the book.)

I've really read very little Norma Klein, and I'm trying to fix that. It's hard because her books aren't always very available. I had to request this book through interlibrary loan; my library no longer has any Norma Klein books in its collection. (You might be able to find some at second-hand bookstores or websites or book sales.)

Anyway, this was a strange little book. Two fourteen-year-olds run a hit restaurant with no adult involvement? It's amazing how believably this plot is set up. I was more amazed, though, by the frankness with which pregnancy and abortion are dealt with. Sara Lee, Ralph's girlfriend, decides to have an abortion, and it's dealt with with very little fuss or controversy; while the book doesn't go into the long-term affect that such a decision might have on her (it happens near the end), it does show her after the abortion in a very functional light, moving on with her life. I can't think of any recent middle grade book (and that's really what this is) that deals with abortion in such light; it even has the word 'abortion' on the back cover. There's also a very interesting look at different 'types' of mothers (and different 'types' of women) as Carla sees them, and at fourteen, she's just starting to wonder about her own role as a future woman. I've requested some more Norma Klein titles through interlibrary loans, and I can't wait to dive into them.

Find it at Fantastic Fiction.

Read it with:
Forever by Judy Blume
Taking Sides by Norma Klein
Learning Curves: Body Image and Female Sexuality in Young Adult Literature by Beth Younger

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