Saturday, September 24, 2011

Inconvenient by Margie Gelbwasser

ISBN: 978-0-7387-2148-4

Publisher: Flux

Source: Barnes and Noble, bought at an author signing

Summary: In fifteen-year-old Alyssa Bondar's Russian-Jewish culture, having a few drinks is as traditional as blinchiki and piroshki. So when her mom's midday cocktails turn into an all-day happy hour, it seems like Alyssa's the only one who notices--or cares. Her dad is steeped in the nightly news--and denial--and her best friend Lana is too busy trashing their shared Russian heritage so she can be popular.
Alyssa would rather focus on cross-country meets and her first kiss with her running partner, Keith, but someone has to clean up her mom's mess. But who will be there to catch Alyssa when her mom's next fall off the wagon threatens to drag Alyssa down, too?

I feel like it's been forever since I read a young adult contemporary issues book. I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this one. I was judging the book based on its cover, and there's a butterfly on the cover. I dislike butterflies, hate on me, I don't even care. I don't like flowers either, just to get that out of the way.
I was pleasantly surprised by Inconvenient. The book tells the story of Alyssa Bondar, the picture of a normal teenage girl. She's smart, runs track, and doesn't quite fit in at her high school. When her mother's drinking begins to get out of control, Alyssa at first avoids the problem. When she can't any longer, she tries unsuccessfully to bring attention to her mother's alcoholism. Only after her mother publicly humiliates her does anyone listen to Alyssa.
I found Alyssa's character, while not anyone that would stand out to me, to be incredibly believable and well-written. She doesn't have a one track mind; she manages to worry simultaneously about her mother's well-being and the status of her sort-of relationship with Keith, her running partner. She also endures mixed feelings about her friendship with Lana, who seems to be disintegrating their friendship in order to gain the attentions of the popular crowd. Gelbwasser's portrayal of Alyssa, her relationships, and her various problems is, for lack of a better explanation, incredibly real.
One of my favorite aspects of this book is the fact that all is not sunshine and roses at the end of the story. Gelbwasser's story is marketed to fans of Sarah Dessen. I love Dessen's works, but I must say they generally end up with everyone being okay. I assumed that this book would turn out the same way: Alyssa's mother would go off on her bender, then steadily going to AA meetings, turning her and her family's lives entirely around and everyone would be all happy again.
This, however, was not the case. I thought the ending of this story was perfect. I'm a fan of non-traditional endings. I support the Doctor Who theory of "Sad is happy for deep people." So the book ending on a less-than-ideal-but-room-for-hope note? Definitely a plus. I give Gelbwasser a lot of credit for not simply tying the story up with a nice alcoholism-curing bow and calling it a day. This also made the story more real. I'd recommend it.

Rating: 4 - the book was good.

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