by Sharon L. Hicks ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 25, 2012
Artful and affecting if a bit long-winded.
In this debut memoir about family and acceptance, a daughter’s lifelong search for normalcy is overshadowed by the antics of her mentally ill mother.
At 16, homecoming queen Sharon Hicks watched her mania-driven mother disrobe in the middle of a department store. In an anecdote that inspired the story’s provocative title and cover design, her mother paraded nude down the escalator, shouting obscenities to perplexed security guards. Hicks goes on to recount a youth and adulthood stocked with similar episodes, beginning in the 1940s and extending to the late ’90s, when she and her family shared the burden of caring for her mother—bailing her out of jail, dealing with doctors, and cleaning up messes, both figurative and literal. Through every event in her life—two abusive marriages, childrearing, numerous sexual liaisons—Hicks keeps one thing in the back of her mind: She mustn’t become her mother. But she takes this pursuit too far, not realizing for many decades that her mother’s freethinking spirit is actually an admirable attribute. Hicks writes honestly, sparing none of the gruesome details related to her mother’s behavior or her own poor decisions, and readers will root for her to prevail. She analyzes situations with beautiful language (“The air around Mother warped and then expanded, like a balloon being stretched beyond its capacity”) and conveys emotions with well-crafted personification: “Resignation introduced itself and shook my hand.” Only occasionally does wordplay go overboard, as in a couple of cringe-worthy sex scenes, and the second half of the story drags at times, with Hicks perpetually dissatisfied by her life and her mother’s repetitive episodes. But the most compelling part of the story is the conflict of opposing forces: normalcy versus lunacy, mother versus father, etc. Ultimately, Hicks yearns for maternal love and attention even after her wealthy father buys her the fancy house and traditional life she thought she wanted. Interestingly, the book also serves as a record of mental health treatments and the development of patient rights as the century progressed.Artful and affecting if a bit long-winded.
Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2012
Page Count: 276
Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2013
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In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Awards & Accolades
A fifth-grade New Orleans girl discovers a mysterious chrysalis containing an unexpected creature in this middle-grade novel.
Jacquelyn Marie Johnson, called Jackie, is a 10-year-old African-American girl, the second oldest and the only girl of six siblings. She’s responsible, smart, and enjoys being in charge; she likes “paper dolls and long division and imagining things she had never seen.” Normally, Jackie has no trouble obeying her strict but loving parents. But when her potted snapdragon acquires a peculiar egg or maybe a chrysalis (she dubs it a chrysalegg), Jackie’s strong desire to protect it runs up against her mother’s rule against plants in the house. Jackie doesn’t exactly mean to lie, but she tells her mother she needs to keep the snapdragon in her room for a science project and gets permission. Jackie draws the chrysalegg daily, waiting for something to happen as it gets larger. When the amazing creature inside breaks free, Jackie is more determined than ever to protect it, but this leads her further into secrets and lies. The results when her parents find out are painful, and resolving the problem will take courage, honesty, and trust. Dumas (Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest: Episode 5, 2017, etc.) presents a very likable character in Jackie. At 10, she’s young enough to enjoy playing with paper dolls but has a maturity that even older kids can lack. She’s resourceful, as when she wants to measure a red spot on the chrysalegg; lacking calipers, she fashions one from her hairpin. Jackie’s inward struggle about what to obey—her dearest wishes or the parents she loves—is one many readers will understand. The book complicates this question by making Jackie’s parents, especially her mother, strict (as one might expect to keep order in a large family) but undeniably loving and protective as well—it’s not just a question of outwitting clueless adults. Jackie’s feelings about the creature (tender and responsible but also more than a little obsessive) are similarly shaded rather than black-and-white. The ending suggests that an intriguing sequel is to come.In more ways than one, a tale about young creatures testing their wings; a moving, entertaining winner.
Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2017
Page Count: 212
Publisher: Plum Street Press
Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018
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A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
In the ninth book in the Bluford young-adult series, a young Latino man walks away from violence—but at great personal cost.
In a large Southern California city, 16-year-old Martin Luna hangs out on the fringes of gang life. He’s disaffected, fatherless and increasingly drawn into the orbit of the older, rougher Frankie. When a stray bullet kills Martin’s adored 8-year-old brother, Huero, Martin seems to be heading into a life of crime. But Martin’s mother, determined not to lose another son, moves him to another neighborhood—the fictional town of Bluford, where he attends the racially diverse Bluford High. At his new school, the still-grieving Martin quickly makes enemies and gets into trouble. But he also makes friends with a kind English teacher and catches the eye of Vicky, a smart, pretty and outgoing Bluford student. Martin’s first-person narration supplies much of the book’s power. His dialogue is plain, but realistic and believable, and the authors wisely avoid the temptation to lard his speech with dated and potentially embarrassing slang. The author draws a vivid and affecting picture of Martin’s pain and confusion, bringing a tight-lipped teenager to life. In fact, Martin’s character is so well drawn that when he realizes the truth about his friend Frankie, readers won’t feel as if they are watching an after-school special, but as though they are observing the natural progression of Martin’s personal growth. This short novel appears to be aimed at urban teens who don’t often see their neighborhoods portrayed in young-adult fiction, but its sophisticated characters and affecting story will likely have much wider appeal.A YA novel that treats its subject and its readers with respect while delivering an engaging story.
Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2004
Page Count: 152
Publisher: Townsend Press
Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2013
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