Fact of Life #31 is a book that languished on my shelf for several months, because I just couldn't take the cover seriously. But I saw several positive reviews (see below), and finally decided to give the book a chance. And the important fact about this book is that it's much more substantial than it first appears.
Kat is the daughter of, and assistant to, a new-agey midwife named Abra. She's also best friend to quirky, hat-wearing Christy, invisible neighbor to gorgeous, perfect Libby, and borderline stalker of the popular, attractive Manny. Kat is a vegetarian, a runner, and girl self-confident enough to take yoga breaks in front of her locker. She's a little bit weird, and definitely prickly, but surprisingly fun to be around.
Fact of Life #31 is about Kat's struggles with her mother, her dreams, and her own self-identify. It's about Kat's developing (but covert) relationship with Manny, and her surprising, grudging, friendship with Libby. It's even about Kat's unexpected friendship with Manny's best friend, and Libby's one-time boyfriend, Mitch. All of this is set against a backdrop of midwifery, with mothers being soothed and babies being born, and life and death decisions being made.
I like Denise Vega's writing. She uses all of the senses, and has a nice flow to the text. Here are a couple of examples:
"I ran for nearly four miles before my legs rubberized and my lungs ached, forcing me to slow down. I turned around, jogging back toward the rec center's parking lot. I felt each breath, each muscle stretching and contracting; heard the soft pat as my shoes hit the dirt; smelled the cool September air filled with most grass and leaves and the slightly sour scent of the canal, recently drained in anticipation of winter." (Page 14)
"I'm not particularly fond of high school parties because I rarely drink, due to my strict workout regimen. If you've ever experienced a party as a completely sober person, it can make you wish you were part of a different subclass of mammal. The flirting, the tossing off of clothes, the swearing and slurring of words, the bad breath, the confessions, the upchucking. It was like being in a horror movie without a director there to yell "Cut!" (Page 78)
"We continued jogging, the silence between us like an old friend." (Page 112)
As the second example shows, this is more a high school book than a middle school book. I think that it would make a good teen romantic comedy, to tell you the truth. It has just the right mix of beautiful and quirky people, along with the requisite misunderstandings and heartbreak, and with the midwife clinic scenes to lend depth to the story. I really liked this book. I recommend it for romance fans, high school age and older. I think it would pair especially well with How NOT to be Popular.
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 13, 2008
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Flamingnet Young Adult Book Blog, Teen Book Review, Becky's Book Reviews, A Patchwork of Books, Bookluver-Carol's Reviews, Bookshelves of Doom
Author Interviews: Bildungsroman
© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.