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Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

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Teenage Book of the Month

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham
Published by David Fickling, 2015

Katie’s mother, Caroline has had a tense relationship with her own mother. But Katie is fascinated by her granny Mary. Katie meets her for the first time when she becomes ill and as the onset of dementia is confirmed it falls to Caroline to look after her, something she’s not pleased about.

But Katie is delighted. She sets about helping her grandmother to dig deep within her memories and to remember as much as possible of her life, including secrets that might be considered best forgotten.

In sharing these secrets, it is Mary who paves the way for Katie to come out and tell not only her mother but the whole world that she’s gay.

In unravelling the stories and the lives of the two older women the reader gains an insight into their life struggles as they worked at being parents and being married.

Unbecoming is the story of three women with three secrets. The book explores the very real problem of living and dealing with someone who has Alzheimers. Alongside this is the unfolding of Katie’s struggle with her sexuality and the turmoil she experiences in keeping it secret.

The characters are all well developed and the stories of each of the three women will not only resonate with teenagers but with women readers of different generations.