I just finished listening to A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, by Dana Reinhardt (Wendy Lamb Books: February 14, 2006). I would classify this as an early young adult book, appropriate for grades 7 and up. It's about a sixteen-year-old girl named Simone, who grows up knowing that she was adopted, without wanting to know anything about her birth parents. She is resentful when her parents tell her that her birth mother, Rivka, wants to get to know her. She eventually gives in, and finds her life enriched by knowing Rivka.
I liked this book a lot. I found myself wanting to keep walking and listening, so that I could spend more time with Simone. I found her voice realistic (and the narrator did a wonderful job with this). She is sometimes a resentful teen, and sometimes awkward or insecure, and sometimes wise beyond her years. She has an unabashedly good relationship with her parents and her younger brother (ok, this is a tad unrealistic in my experience, but still nice to see). She has a small group of true friends, and a crush on a boy named Zack. I found the scenes between Simone and Zack particularly enjoyable. There's a scene in which Simone gets off the phone, and jumps up and down. Reading it, I almost wanted to be her. I certainly could identify with her.
This book also has a lot of information about what it means to be Jewish. Simone is an atheist, being raised by atheist parents, but her birth mother, Rivka, was raised as a Hasidic Jew. As Simone gets to know Rivka, she learns about various Jewish ceremonies and customs. I found this a tiny bit heavy-handed. It was interesting to me to learn more about Passover and Seder, etc. But I felt once or twice like the author was deliberately educating me, which I tend to find off-putting when reading fiction. However, this was not off-putting enough to keep me from absolutely loving the book, and it was an important part of the story. And I actually think that the whole Jewish aspect to the story has the potential to increase my understanding of and empathy with some of my Jewish friends. Certainly it could do so for young adult readers.
Overall, I highly recommend this book. It's a light-hearted, engaging read that also deals with complex issues. It brought a few tears to my eyes near the end, but made me smile, too.
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.