A teenage girl grapples with her family’s growing pains.
Set in early 1990s Manhattan as the AIDS crisis was hitting its peak, Jensen’s semiautobiographical debut novel in verse explores how shifting parental dynamics can affect a household. At the novel’s start, Miranda “Mira” Stewart has always been a dedicated student and engaged daughter, devoted to her academician father and younger sister and struggling to relate to her self-involved artist mother. Her biggest concerns are what theme to choose as she takes the editorial helm of her high school yearbook, how to negotiate the absence of her recently graduated boyfriend, and filling out college applications—all typical senior-year fare. “But the constellation of a family / can shift shape / in seconds.” When Mira discovers her father in a compromising position with his male teaching assistant, both her image of him and her understanding of her parents’ relationship collapse. Mira withdraws from her family and acts out at school, at first unwilling to forgive her parents for having kept a crucial part of their relationship hidden. Throughout, Jensen’s spare free-verse poems and accessible imagery realistically portray the fraught moments of adolescent identity formation with great empathy.
Compelling snapshots of contemporary family drama and the AIDS epidemic as captured through a teen’s eyes. (Historical fiction/verse. 14 & up)