Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
I’m really loving how YA fiction is tackling so many different issues at the moment. Unbecoming, the new novel by Jenny Downham, author of the brilliant Before I Die, is no exception, with sexuality and family being central topics.
Katie has never met her grandmother before. Understanding that her mother and grandmother have not spoken in years, she is surprised when her mother, albeit reluctantly, agrees to take her ageing grandmother into their home until other accommodation can be found. What then begins is the unravelling of Katie’s family history and her grandmother’s spiral into the ever distressing state of dementia.
While family life is increasingly turning into a circus, school and friends are not much better. Katie’s decision to kiss her best friend has ended in constant ridicule about her sexuality from girls at school, while Katie struggles to work out whether she is gay or not.
Unbecoming is a strong book which focuses on some very important topics, especially the confusion and worry teens can feel about their sexuality. The homophobia portrayed is all too real, while the character of her grandmother and her impending memory loss are heartbreaking. This is a beautiful story for teens interested in reality-based reading. Ages 13 and up.
Katherine Dretzke is a bookseller at Readings Hawthorn.