Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Stars: 4.5 (out of 5)
Summary: Feni, a dynamic twelve year old, struggles with the decision that her mother has made to take in Rebecca, a pregnant fifteen year old who is approaching her third trimester. What begins as a hostile relationship evolves into a powerful friendship between the two girls.
As a mature, adult reader, I found this story to be very powerful. The two main characters, Feni and Rebecca, are both extremely dynamic characters. This book was somewhat of a coming of age story, as both Feni and Rebecca tackle some of life’s most difficult challenges. The way that they both grow through their living together under one roof is extraordinary. Because we, as readers, get to experience such struggles with the girls, in the end, we feel a very powerful connection with them. Emotionally, I felt sad at the end of the story, fearing that Rebecca and Feni had become too close to be separated. At the same time, I was proud of the ways in which they grew as characters, and was confident in their abilities to succeed.
That all being said, this book could be interpreted as a very controversial piece of literature. The story is centered around the pregnancy of a fifteen year old girl. Rebecca is a teenager who had unprotected sex with her boyfriend, becoming pregnant. At first, she tries to hide her pregnancy from her mother, until her mother walks in on her in the bathroom. Due to her mothers’ fragile state, Rebecca goes to live at Feni’s house, Feni’s mother being a great college friend of her mother. Without this explicitly stated, it would seem as if Rebecca’s pregnancy is too much for her distraught mother to handle. Thus, the pregnancy of a fifteen-year-old child, while unfortunately common, is something that could be considered highly controversial, enough so to ban it from libraries and schools.
To make matters even more complicated and controversial, Woodson has included a lesbian couple in the story. As one of the lesbians, Marion, is a close friend of both Rebecca’s mother and Feni’s mother, she spends a lot of time with Feni and Rebecca. Controversy over lesbianism exists within the story, as Rebecca struggles at first to accept Marion and her sexuality. Feni tries to help Rebecca understand the relationship, stressing that is it one of true love. Overall, I could see how this might add a layer of controversy to this novel.
In general, I do not see myself using this book in my future classroom. There are two separate reasons for this. First of all, I hope to teach younger children in one of the primary grades, and such a story would not be appropriate for that age level. Developmentally, many of my potential students would be too young to truly understand the story and all of its depth. Thus, it would not make a good read-aloud. Secondly, I see this book as one that is very controversial, and thus, would be afraid to use it in my classroom. While I am able to see all of the good in this book, I’m not sure that it is one that I would fight to include in my curriculum.