Saturday, December 01, 2007

Me, Penelope, by Lisa Jahn-Clough

In some ways Lopi (short for Penelope) has it all together. She's managed to shave a year off of high school and will graduate early this year. She has a good friend Toad and a couple other important folks in her life. But her relationship with her mother is rocky (made worse by the death of her baby brother when she was only 6) and she longs for love - or at least for sex. The latter is a particular struggle for her as she attempts to sort out the meaning of "love" and what she is really looking for.

Touching and insightful, this is a stunning novel and a model of moderation. There is angst (but not too much), there is sex (but neither squeamish nor prurient). We have the expected conflict with Mom and a rapproachment at the end (but handled delicately). We even have some potential melodrama (dead brother), but it is handled gracefully. In sum, Jahn-Clough is an excellent writer, creating a heroine who sounds real and sympathetic. This is not a flashy novel, but it is a beautiful piece and one of the best I have read this year. Strongly recommended.

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