Simone’s family is perfect. Her father is a political cartoonist, her mother is an ACLU attorney, her brother is a high school freshman with great hair, and she’s a math whiz. Sure, she has dark hair, olive skin, and almond-shaped eyes while the rest of the family is blonde all over. But they’re still a family. And that’s what matters, right?
Simone’s known since early in her life that she’s adopted. She doesn’t know anything about her biological family, though, and what’s more, she’s never been curious about it. In spite of her lack of curiosity, Simone’s about to learn a lot more about her origins than she ever expected.
The central story in Dana Reinhardt’s debut novel A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life deals with Simone’s discovery of her birth mother’s heritage, and the struggle she goes through to reconcile her Hasidic Jew history with her Atheist upbringing. Rivka, Simone’s birth mother, emerges as a force in Simone’s life that changes her perspective on everything in some way or another. Side stories include Simone’s best friend dealing with her recently changed body and subsequent, eventually unpleasant, sexual awakening, as well as a potential romance for Simone with a fellow staff member on the school paper.
Brief Chapter has a lot of great things going on. I’m reluctant to single one out as its best, so I’ll just list some. First, Simone’s voice is wonderful. Simone has a wry sense of humor, and is a deep thinker but not at all pretentious. Second is the delightful normalness of Simone’s family. They are not without flaws, but they aren’t ravaged by tragedy or creepily perfect. Third is the way the book handles the normal and important subject matter of young adult life – self-discovery, rapid change, understanding love and sex, crises of faith – while tying these themes into a larger story about the definition of family.
I would recommend Brief Chapter to just about any reader high-school aged or up. It has broad appeal, and is especially good for readers interested in adoption and interfaith issues.
Book: A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (Affiliate Link)
Author: Dana Reinhardt
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Original Publication Date: 2006
Age Range: Young Adult
Source of Book: Amazon.com
Other Blog Reviews: Tea Cozy, bookshelves of doom, interactivereader, Bildungsroman, Young Adult (& Kids) Books Central, propernoun.net
Extras: My Interview with Dana Reinhardt, Interview at Interactive Reader, Interview at Bildungsroman