My mother opened with: when she was 16 (somewhere around 1948), she decided to not continue with high school. Just because. She took her older sister’s ID and got a job shipping movie posters (among other secretarial duties) to various agents. Only this was before the country was blanketed with zip codes and she often mixed places up, like Novato and Nevada. She lasted only a few months and everyone kept calling her “Inez,” which, of course, was not her name. Her scam was revealed and her other older sister retrieved her, returning her to high school. This story surfaced while we were sitting in Baja Cantina, a non-swanky Mexican restaurant in Carmel Valley. The girls and I were having a brief respite from ripe softball cleats, unmanageable algebra and the below:
Reconstructing Amelia, by Kimberley McCreight, is yet another disturbing book about mean girls, but because it’s the 21st century, their weapons are more devastating and far-reaching. Gone are the good old days of spitballs and the wrong pair of jeans; these girls can give you an eating disorder with Instagram. I liked the book because of the pacing and because I am a sucker for a well-paced thriller. It’s been thrown in the same beach bag as Gone Girl, but, in my opinion, it doesn’t come close for plot twists and character reversals. That said, if you want to be truly disturbed by the younger generation’s 24/7 access to each other, go ahead. There is a mother figure but she barely registers as a character, as I assume most mothers do for teenage girls. Personally, I believe the younger set has far more going for it than mine ever did, and despite the problems on the horizon involving coming off medications (this includes my generation, unfortunately), I think we’re in decent hands.
Also read an incredible love story, the best one I’ve read in a long while, titled Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell. Yes, it’s a teen book, but the characters are multi-faceted, lovable, annoying, heroic and heartbreaking. Taking place in the late 80’s, two teens fall reluctantly in love, then try to navigate a relationship complicated by an evil parent, a few bullies, a few unlikely friends, the importance of learning how to drive a stick, and the music of The Smiths.
Finally, Relish, My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley, is the chewy memoir you may want to swallow whole. An adult graphic novel (which sounds kind of edgy but doesn’t have to be), it’s the story of one girl’s upbringing as the daughter of a chef and a gourmet. I don’t read many graphic novels but, as my friend Aisling observed, a cooking memoir in graphic form is exactly right. Think of it as brain candy with a twist, and if you don’t want to keep it, you can briefly revisit your long-ago comic book desires, and pass it along to another hungry reader.