A new-adult coming-of-age story from debut author Sargam.
Sophie may only be 18, but between her responsibilities as a senior high schooler, a hotel employee, and a surrogate mother to her boyfriend Eric’s younger siblings, she has more on her plate than many adults. Her teachers, however, only see her as a hotheaded, disobedient, promiscuous girl who needs the supervision and strict discipline of Ms. Jennings, a teacher at school who agrees to take in the orphaned Sophie and get her back on track. Yet Sophie has been taking care of herself for so long that she balks at the idea of a curfew and restrictions on how often she can see Eric. Bitter about her own romantic past, Ms. Jennings so wholly disapproves of teenagers having sex that she initially forbids Sophie any time alone with Eric, despite the fact that eventually she, too, begins to feel attracted to Sophie’s cousin Darrell. As Ms. Jennings and Sophie slowly earn each other’s trust—Sophie eventually takes to calling Ms. Jennings “Ma”—both women begin to discover that compassion and self-forgiveness are key to emotional maturity. Author Sargam deftly navigates between realistic teenspeak and adult diction, often fleshing out her characters through dialogue: “It’s nice to get a straightforward answer,” Ms. Jennings says. “Okay, straightforward,” Sophie responds. “On a scale of one to ten, ten being how awkward and uncomfortable I feel right now, I’m at four thousand. Better?” While the sexual morality runs a bit prudish and the insistence upon supervision is a bit overbearing—Sophie and Eric are both of legal age—Sargam allows for personal growth in all her characters. While readers may tire of repetitious plot points—for example, Ma chastises Sophie for her “irresponsible” relationship, even though Ma has plenty of evidence that the relationship is more mature than she thinks—the result is still a sincere exploration of the connections between adults and teenagers.
Though overlong and occasionally repetitive, this book offers three-dimensional portraits of emotional journeys for young and old alike.