Adrienne Haus is fifteen the summer that a torn ACL keeps her from a camping adventure with her best friend. Hoping to occupy her for the summer, Adrienne’s mother suggests a mother-daughter book club, but the book club participants are an odd array of mothers and daughters. Adrienne, CeeCee, Jill and Wallis are an unlikely quartet, and hardly in the same social circle; they would never hang out together at school under normal circumstances. Similarly, their mothers are also very different from each other. Harried single parents, unconcerned academics and socialites are among their ranks. Adrienne is convinced that mixing it up like this can only lead to no-good, and when a book club related death occurs under mysterious circumstances it appears that she might be more right than she knows.
Schumacher has written a deeply thoughtful and realistic, yet quirky, novel about the summer that a socially awkward teen spends separated from her only friend. While thinking about the choices her mother might have made that led to her fatherless upbringing, Adrienne forms new relationships that are precarious and fraught with danger. She pushes boundaries she never before would have approached. While warned by Jill, that CeeCee might not have her best interests at heart, she nonetheless is powerless to resist the pull of the new friendship that’s being offered, though she is skeptical of both its merits and endurance. Wallis, along with CeeCee, also provides points of contention between Adrienne and her mom – because though they spend the summer increasingly at odds with one another, Adrienne is more than a little peeved by the fast friendship they seem to have.
As a protagonist, Adrienne is a bit of a misfit. She is equally deliberate in the choices she makes just as much as she is passive and mystified by them as well. I loved how the parents are involved in their children’s lives, even as they don’t quite understand what to make of them or what to do with them. All of Adrienne’s relationships and interactions make sense and are appropriate for whom she seems to be. I love her relationship with her mother and the way they evolve over the summer, leaving no easy answers or ready conclusions.
As a book club enthusiast I wholeheartedly approve of the reading list and Adrienne’s careful consideration of each book in light of the characters and their circumstances, and the relevance they have in her life and the choices that she makes over the summer. The novel is written in essay style as an assignment for Adrienne’s AP English course, and key elements of literary style and structure are defined and demonstrated in each of the chapters. The group reads Frankenstein, The Yellow Wall Paper, The Awakening, The Left Hand of Darkness, and The House on Mango Street. Certainly it’s a worthy collection. The consideration that Adrienne gives to books, reading and the place and influence they have in personal existence provides food for thought and adds to a weighty and entertaining read. Recommended.
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