Baldini, Michelle, and Lynn Biederman. Unraveling.
New York: Delacorte Press, 2008. 230 p.
Amanda Himmelfarb is caught in the web adolescence. At 15, she just wants to fit in. She wants boys to like her and her mom, whom she calls The Captain, to leave her alone. Amanda is a normal teenager, right down to her lack of tact and off-kilter timing. Over the summer before her sophomore year, Amanda and her feuding family are travelling to Myrtle Beach for a short vacation. Normally Amanda would not want to spend this quality time together, but Paul is waiting for her. Paul is the guy she kissed last summer and she has been texting and emailing all year. Amanda cannot wait to see him and hook up with him. Amanda is a virgin but she thinks she is ready to give it up for Paul. When she sneaks out to meet him, he immediately takes her up to a lifeguard platform on the beach. Paul has been thinking on the same lines as Amanda, although in a more one track fashion. Readers know where this is going. The story of the guy who just wants sex and the girl who wants someone to like her is age old and totally truthful. On the lifeguard platform Amanda is on her period but does not want to tell Paul. He gets mad at her and, desperate to please him, gives her first blowjob. The descriptions used throughout the novel are forward and in your face, but I never found the writing to be gratuitous or false. When The Captain catches Amanda on the beach with Paul, she flips and Amanda does not hear from Paul again. She had her chance and he did not get everything he wanted. Back at school the nagging from the Captain continues. Amanda and her mother are at that stage where they cannot find any common ground to communicate. Amanda’s Aunt Jen and The Captain’s best friend Marion feel for Amanda, and offer her their ear when they can. Amanda’s sexual dysfunction continues when she begins hooking up with the hot Rick Hayes. Hayes is dating Amanda’s enemy on the swim team which makes it sweeter. Things will not progress with Rick. They go to his car after school and make out, sometimes more, but he will not acknowledge her in public. She wants a boyfriend. He wants her virginity. They make The Deal. Amanda’ virginity for Rick’s hand at homecoming. The book may seem like it is becoming a singular ‘issues’ novel but I pleasantly surprised at the evolving storyline between Amanda and her mother and Amanda’s overall journey.
Amanda’s poetry included in the novel is thoughtful and another way to understand her experience. Amanda’s self-defeating behavior is a common symptom of low self-esteem and those of us who have been there are rooting for her to make better choices. Baldini and Biederman’s use of poetry, fortunes, and emails help break up the reading experience and importantly everything furthers the story. This novel quickly transform from gritty to touching over only 230 pages. I will look for a follow up from the author team.
14 and up
The cover model fits the description of Amanda perfectly, right down to the dress. The bold image on the white background jumps out at readers, as well as the model’s interesting expression. This cover fits the novel very well.