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THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking fo THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking for acceptance, Amanda turns her attention to boys, and doing whatever she can to be popular at school. That includes making out with the gorgeous senior Rick in his car after school—even though he has a girlfriend. And when Rick offers her The Deal—a real, official date to the Homecoming in front of everyone, in exchange for her virginity—Amanda jumps at the chance. But no matter how you try to prepare for the unexpected, sometimes you can’t. Sharp, chatty, and brutally honest, this debut novel is compulsively readable and heartbreakingly real.


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THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking fo THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking for acceptance, Amanda turns her attention to boys, and doing whatever she can to be popular at school. That includes making out with the gorgeous senior Rick in his car after school—even though he has a girlfriend. And when Rick offers her The Deal—a real, official date to the Homecoming in front of everyone, in exchange for her virginity—Amanda jumps at the chance. But no matter how you try to prepare for the unexpected, sometimes you can’t. Sharp, chatty, and brutally honest, this debut novel is compulsively readable and heartbreakingly real.

30 review for Unraveling

  1. 5 out of 5

    Becky

    Baldini, Michelle and Lynn Biederman. 2008. Unraveling. [Poems by Gabrielle Biederman:] The first Chinese fortune I collected the summer I hooked up with Paul--the guy some might consider my first--read: The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected. I should have taken it more seriously. Fortunes can be like little instructions for life; they may not fit yours at that particular moment, after that particular meal of kung pao chicken, but eventually they will. Trust me on this. I loved Amanda H Baldini, Michelle and Lynn Biederman. 2008. Unraveling. [Poems by Gabrielle Biederman:] The first Chinese fortune I collected the summer I hooked up with Paul--the guy some might consider my first--read: The smart thing is to prepare for the unexpected. I should have taken it more seriously. Fortunes can be like little instructions for life; they may not fit yours at that particular moment, after that particular meal of kung pao chicken, but eventually they will. Trust me on this. I loved Amanda Himmelfarb. I just loved her. With the same amount of passion that I loved Amanda, I hated her mother. "The Captain." Every time she entered a scene, I wanted to yell "boo!" I think that is partly because Amanda is so sympathetically drawn. She's just likeable. But I do think in part it's because Amanda feels like such a kindred spirit to me. I have felt her pain. I have been in her shoes. The whole eternally-miscommunicating-with-your-mother and finding-solace-in-writing poetry aspect of the novel. Even Amanda's relationship with her sister, Melody (aka Malady) felt all too real to me. She had her moments of jealous indignation. Another eery similarity? Amanda has an ally or advocate in her aunt. She feels her aunt "gets her" better than her mother. (Now, we are different in many ways. But at the core I felt we were more alike than different.) If ever a mother treated her daughter like enemy #1 it's The Captain. Amanda doesn't stand a chance of having her mother's approval or love or affection for even a few brief seconds a day. Is it any wonder that Amanda is always on the defensive? Amanda's story turns humilating right from the start. There are plenty of angst-filled moments. Plenty of embarrassing moments. Plenty of humor...mostly at Amanda's expense. In a way equivalent to when you have to hide your eyes when you're watching an embarrassing scene unfold in a teen flick. The novel does focus on her family. But it also focuses on her "love life." The first boy who is in the picture is Paul. The second boy is Rick. Both boys are insignificant except that they teach Amanda a few lessons about life, love, and the opposite sex. (These portions do get a bit graphic.) This one definitely falls into the category of coming-of-age. She's going on a journey to find herself and to love herself. One of my favorite aspects of the novel are Amanda's poems. Sometimes... Sometimes I wish I were you, grades, proud parents, perfect vision. Sometimes I wish we could switch roles, if jealousy didn't stand in our path. Sometimes I wish I had a sister to talk to, for advice, to tell a story, just because. Sometimes I wish I had a shoulder to cry on, one that is related, one that would relate. Sometimes I wish that we could be sisters because we want to, not because we have to. Sometimes I wish that I could make time turn around, to gather back something that maybe never was, But somehow should have always been. I loved so many things about this one. It was a novel that danced around hope. It had its moments of anger and jealousy and hate and confusion and pure-angst. But it never lost hints of hope. Hope. Grace. Redemption. © Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

  2. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Wow!! I'm half-way through this book and am finding it totally realistic. Teens who find themselves contemplating giving it up for the first time need to read this. For a first time author, I think Baldini and Biederman have created a story that captures the reality of teenage choices and struggles. I hope the end follows through... Now that I've finished, it did not disappoint! Wow!! I'm half-way through this book and am finding it totally realistic. Teens who find themselves contemplating giving it up for the first time need to read this. For a first time author, I think Baldini and Biederman have created a story that captures the reality of teenage choices and struggles. I hope the end follows through... Now that I've finished, it did not disappoint!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    Love.It. I really connected with Manda and her problems - TMI, but I was there (20 years earlier, at least). One of the best books about being a teen and living through all that nonsense I've read in a very, very long time. Love.It. I really connected with Manda and her problems - TMI, but I was there (20 years earlier, at least). One of the best books about being a teen and living through all that nonsense I've read in a very, very long time.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    A terrific and heartbreaking read. Reminds you what was so great about being a teenager--- and what was so awful!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Nancy

    I have not seen such raw and heartbreaking emotion in a book for a really long time now. While the storyline might be ordinary mother-daughter problems, the voice is extraordinary and powerful. It’s rare to find debut novels so pleasantly written, so trust me when I tell you you NEED to read this book. 1. I didn’t get it at first, but the title and the cover art stay true to the novel. Well, the Homecoming dress, anyway. The girl? Not so much. Not to be superficial or anything, but the girl on t I have not seen such raw and heartbreaking emotion in a book for a really long time now. While the storyline might be ordinary mother-daughter problems, the voice is extraordinary and powerful. It’s rare to find debut novels so pleasantly written, so trust me when I tell you you NEED to read this book. 1. I didn’t get it at first, but the title and the cover art stay true to the novel. Well, the Homecoming dress, anyway. The girl? Not so much. Not to be superficial or anything, but the girl on the cover looks too mature (honestly, she’s like thirty and resembles Jennifer Anniston) to pose as a fifteen year old. Maybe it’s the make-up (or the Aslan-originated lion hair), but it freaked me out a little. 2. While I like the fortune cookie’s slips of advices, other than the first one (The Smart Thing is to Prepare for the Unexpected) the rest didn’t seem to connect to the story. They’re like the intellectual and thought-provoking bombs that get dropped from somewhere far away where they’re only-this-closely-related. To me, anyway. 3. Same goes for the poems. Now, I won’t even try to say that I understand poetry, because I honestly don’t. You won’t even need to read my poems to get that. (I do free verse, anyway.) The writing poems aspect makes up the character of Amanda and it connects to her feelings or is based off of accidents that happen, but I feel like they’re time dropped too. I see hints of emotion and depth, but mostly I see mediocre attempts to draw from true emotion. The writing and voice itself is powerful enough to withstand on its own—it’s heartbreaking and so true—so I don’t get why authors seem to think that they can better express their narration through prose WITH verse when it can easily be done with one. I mean, if you can do both, go ahead. Usually, it just takes my attention away so that I find faults with either one. (Think Kephart’s “lyrical” novel Undercover which I did not find amazing at all.) 4. I must have read the “signs” all wrong, but while I was reading the email exchanges between Susan and Marrion, I could have sworn they were in love with each other “that” way. In fact, I was rather disappointed when that they weren’t anything more than best friends. It would have added more drama to the family—not that the Himmelfarbs needed anymore of that. 5. Marrion’s death was not only extreme but completely random. I hate the idea of having to lose someone before you can find yourself. (I once had to do a critical lens essay on that, and of course, agreeing was the easiest—but I really do detest that.) 6. I hated that Amanda lost her virginity to someone like Rick, but I also loved that she did. It was just too real a moment to pass without making a comment on. The entire time she was struggling with an answer—yes or no?—reminded me of the clichéd movie plot where the girl is standing at the altar next to her soon-to-be-husband and just realizes that she’s about to marry the wrong guy. This is the point where the girl says tearfully, “I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” She has made her choice, the right one that enables her happily ever after. So while reading Unraveling I realized Amanda wasn’t going to get that moment of truth where she can overturn her mistakes. It was sad, but it made me a little happy that it went against the happily ever after mantra and that sometimes, your mistakes can’t be stopped in the right time. I mean, the movie weddings makes me smile, but it also makes me cringe. What can I say? I’m a contradictory girl. 7. Maybe I like drama or something, but I kept waiting for the big confrontation between the mother and daughter to happen. There’d be lots of screaming, hateful words, bursts of “You just don’t get it, do you!”, crying, and finally, hugging. Instead, things just slowly revert to the way life used to be and everything is just a-okay that way. I don’t think that’s realistic. It’s such a long list that I find myself wondering whether I really liked the book or just thought I did. I didn’t start the review by planning to write everything here, but I did. Still, let me repeat that I have never read such a moving story about a mother and her daughter. My emotional state whilst reading this went from mediocre to surprise to outrage to WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH YOU? screaming. So it’s not only angst from the fictional teen, but your angst as well.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kristi

    Fifteen-year-old Amanda can’t seem to live up to her mother’s– a.k.a. The Captain– standards. It doesn’t matter what she does or what she doesn’t do, it always lands her in hot water. She fights with her mother so often she has to give them names to keep them all straight. She’ll never measure up to her perfect little sister Malady and she resents The Captain for it. Since Amanda doesn’t get the support she needs at home she often feels unwanted by her own mother. In retaliation Amanda turns to s Fifteen-year-old Amanda can’t seem to live up to her mother’s– a.k.a. The Captain– standards. It doesn’t matter what she does or what she doesn’t do, it always lands her in hot water. She fights with her mother so often she has to give them names to keep them all straight. She’ll never measure up to her perfect little sister Malady and she resents The Captain for it. Since Amanda doesn’t get the support she needs at home she often feels unwanted by her own mother. In retaliation Amanda turns to someone that will give her attention, boys. Rick Hayes the most popular guy at school starts flirting with Amanda and she thinks she is in heaven. No matter that he already has a girlfriend. She enjoys their secret make-out sessions in the parking lot, but she wants more. She wants to be with him in public, more specifically she wants to be his girlfriend. Rick offers her that and a date to homecoming all in exchange for one thing. Her virginity. What an outstanding debut novel! I look forward to reading more by Baldini and Biederman. The plot was refreshingly original. And Amanda’s character was so truthful and raw. She’s everything I remember about being a teen, insecure, unsure, and only wishes she was popular. I also loved that even though Amanda’s life was less than perfect she wasn’t one of those characters that whines and pitied herself the whole story. That absolutely drives me crazy! And she had plenty to whine about! The mother–daughter relationship was so compelling. I’m glad I never had a mom like that! I absolutely recommend this book to teenage girls. Warning: there are sexual situations and suggestions in this novel.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Adriana

    I liked the main character in this teen novel. Amanda is not the typical popular beauty. She also has been having a lot of trouble with her mom lately, and basically she feels like she doesn't know who she is or how to please her demanding mom, who she calls "The Captain". Her character is very endearing because she is going through what most teenagers go through, awkwardness, the desire to fit in, to be wanted, to feel comfortable in your own skin. I thought the story and the plot flowed well. I liked the main character in this teen novel. Amanda is not the typical popular beauty. She also has been having a lot of trouble with her mom lately, and basically she feels like she doesn't know who she is or how to please her demanding mom, who she calls "The Captain". Her character is very endearing because she is going through what most teenagers go through, awkwardness, the desire to fit in, to be wanted, to feel comfortable in your own skin. I thought the story and the plot flowed well. There are issues that are better suited for older teens (like sex), and it will probably appeal mostly to teen girls, but it's also a great read for mothers and daughters, or aunts and nieces. It also has some great poetry interspersed throughout.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Just attended OELMA where she presented...and just finished reading it. It was really very good. Michelle Baldini talked about writing with someone else which I don't think I could do- but she and the other author pulled it off. Amanda Himmelfarb is a great character. I identified with her in many ways - a teen trying to fit in not only with her peers but in her family as well. I was heartbroken right along with Amanda as she makes right and wrong choices and as she weathers the stuff that is ul Just attended OELMA where she presented...and just finished reading it. It was really very good. Michelle Baldini talked about writing with someone else which I don't think I could do- but she and the other author pulled it off. Amanda Himmelfarb is a great character. I identified with her in many ways - a teen trying to fit in not only with her peers but in her family as well. I was heartbroken right along with Amanda as she makes right and wrong choices and as she weathers the stuff that is ultimately out of our control. It is a great read for mothers and daughters.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    Super angsty. Amanda's family is fighting hardcore, but the worst battles happen between Amanda and her mother. I feel so bad for poor Amanda and her hurt feelings. Amanda also must deal with being used by 2 different asshole jerk "boyfriends." On the plus side, she writes some pretty great poems. Super angsty. Amanda's family is fighting hardcore, but the worst battles happen between Amanda and her mother. I feel so bad for poor Amanda and her hurt feelings. Amanda also must deal with being used by 2 different asshole jerk "boyfriends." On the plus side, she writes some pretty great poems.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Gina

    Like an updated version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret because it tackles a girl's first period, her first sexual experiences and the awkwardness that goes along with adolescence. (Oh, and it was written by two librarians and the poetry interspersed throughout the book was written by a real teen!) Like an updated version of Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret because it tackles a girl's first period, her first sexual experiences and the awkwardness that goes along with adolescence. (Oh, and it was written by two librarians and the poetry interspersed throughout the book was written by a real teen!)

  11. 5 out of 5

    BW

    I liked this story because of the perspective. I felt like I was in the head of Amanda--in the same way that Beverly Cleary could articulate Ramona's thought processes as a 4-8 yr old (the best Ramona years, IMHO). It was a bit harsh in places, watching the mom, and it wraps up pretty quickly, but the pressures & issues facing Amanda were very contemporary, and her pain felt very real. I liked this story because of the perspective. I felt like I was in the head of Amanda--in the same way that Beverly Cleary could articulate Ramona's thought processes as a 4-8 yr old (the best Ramona years, IMHO). It was a bit harsh in places, watching the mom, and it wraps up pretty quickly, but the pressures & issues facing Amanda were very contemporary, and her pain felt very real.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    I wanted to strangle most of the characters in this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    AJ LeBlanc

    With two major flaws, this is great YA. There are some spoilers ahead. I tried to be vague, but I might give too much away for some of you. Amanda is 15 and a mess. Her parents seem headed for divorce, her mom is constantly disappointed in her, her younger sister is perfect, and her love life is a disaster. That plot could be used for almost any other YA book on the shelf. but Baldini and Biederman do so much more with Amanda and it’s wonderful. The book deals with two major themes: Amanda and her m With two major flaws, this is great YA. There are some spoilers ahead. I tried to be vague, but I might give too much away for some of you. Amanda is 15 and a mess. Her parents seem headed for divorce, her mom is constantly disappointed in her, her younger sister is perfect, and her love life is a disaster. That plot could be used for almost any other YA book on the shelf. but Baldini and Biederman do so much more with Amanda and it’s wonderful. The book deals with two major themes: Amanda and her mother and Amanda and boys. Amanda’s mom sucks. ”The Captain” is wound so tightly that she cannot accept the fact that Amanda’s period doesn’t start “on time” and that Amanda isn’t on a regular cycle. She can’t handle that Amanda would put on her socks before putting on pants. If Amanda says she needs to “pee”, there’s going to be a lengthy discussion on why “urinate” is the proper word choice. As Amanda gets older and her teen problems get worse, she pulls back from her mom as much as possible. While part of her wants desperately to have her guidance and acceptance, she’s been hurt too many times to try any more. The Captain forgets Amanda’s birthday, but has no problem spending way too much money on Amanda’s sister’s Bat Mitzvah. The Captain got knocked up at 16, and even though she’s still together with Amanda’s dad, Amanda is very aware that she completely destroyed her life the moment she was conceived. She’ll never be good enough and it will always hurt when she falls short. While all of this is happening, Amanda is desperate for a boyfriend. She met Paul last summer and they’ve been texting and IMing all year. She just wants to meet up with him this summer and lose her virginity. She’s scared, but he thinks she’s older (he’s 18) and that she’s more experienced. She isn’t experienced at all, but she’s madly in love with him and wants to be with him forever, and what better way to start a long lasting relationship than sex? Her friends are encouraging, and her best friend does want her to be safe and OK, but it’s clear that Amanda is ready to have sex. Or at least she’s ready to say she’s ready. She wants to be ready. When they meet up, she panics. She’s started her period and doesn’t want him to know, but he thinks she’s teasing him and won’t put out. She ends up pacifying him with oral sex. It’s her first sexual act and she is woefully unprepared for the mental scramble that’s about to hit her. After they’ve finished, he walks her home and right into the path of The Captain. She, of course, loses her shit. Amanda wasn’t supposed to be out and has given The Captain even more evidence that she’s a horrible kid who isn’t going to amount to anything. Paul takes off and Amanda never sees him again. She’s panicked and confused, especially when she gets back home and he blocks her after she keeps texting and IMing him. She honestly thought that they were starting a relationship and is sad she didn’t get to prove to him how much he means to her. This spectacular failure takes her back into the school year. She’s crushed that she and Paul aren’t in long distance love but is ready to find the next perfect guy. Now that she’s experienced, she knows what she needs to do. Wonder of wonders, Rick suddenly takes notice of her. Not only is he the hottest guy in school, he’s her worst enemy’s boyfriend. She is thrilled that she’s about to get a boyfriend who will love her and hold her hand in public, and on top if that, he’s going to break his current girlfriend’s heart to do it. Amanda doesn’t seem to notice that Rick only wants to hang out when no one else is around. Hanging out is making out and working their way up to other things. Amanda gets more frustrated because he won’t break up with Courtney. They finally work out a deal where she’ll have sex with him and he’ll take her to the Homecoming Dance. Everyone will see them together and he’ll have to end it with Courtney. Again, while all of this is going on, Amanda continues to fight with The Captain. She tries to be helpful but is pushed away. She can’t find the right words or the right deeds to make things OK, and seeing the way her mom and sister get along, it makes it so much worse. The Homecoming Dance happens, and it’s a total disaster. Amanda needs a mom. She needs help. She gets nothing. Things explode over Thanksgiving break and her relationship with her mom gets worse and worse. The Captain got a new computer and asked Amanda to help her set it up. Amanda quietly saved her mom’s password and has been reading her emails for a while. The only person The Captain’s connects to her is best friend, Marion. Amanda reads their emails and gets even more proof at how worthless she is to her mom. But still, she tries. It’s heartbreaking and real how much Amanda pulls back and reaches out at the same time. The Captain tries every once in a while too, but their relationship is a mess, they’re never emotionally in the same place, and they just get further and further apart. And this brings us to the first of the major flaws. As I was reading, I thought it was good that there was a character with such a horrible relationship with her mom and I was looking forward to the resolution. Something had to change and I was eager to see how it would play out. I thought of female YA readers and how they would respond to this relationship and how they would see their own relationships with their moms reflected in the book. I wanted to know what moment was going to happen to make Amanda and/or The Captain finally stop and either change or give in. Would the relationship completely dissolve or would they be able to overcome the huge gap and emotional (and a few physical) scars to try to make things better? A lot of books I’ve been reading with female/female relationships get to this point and then chose an easy way out: someone gets really sick (usually cancer), someone dies, or something else incredibly terrible happens. Books with mother/daughter, female best friend, or sister relationships seem to get stuck and use this plot device to move things forward. It happened here, and I was pissed. The Very Bad Thing happens and that’s what motivates Amanda and her mom to change their relationship. I was really angry because Baldini and Biederman created a powerful conflict and I wanted to see how they were going to get out of it for their readers. Even though The Captain made my stomach hurt, I wanted it to work. I wanted one of them to find the magic sentence that would start fixing their relationship. But no… they brought out the Very Bad Thing. All I could think was turning to the readers and saying “That’s right kids. If you have a shitty relationship with your family, the only way it’s going to get better is if someone gets cancer, dies, or some other incredibly traumatic event happens. That is the only way relationships are fixed.” Bullshit. Yes, bad things happen but more often than not, they don’t happen. Where’s the help for the readers who don’t get to experience a Very Bad Thing? So. Angry! The second flaw is tied in with something amazing that Baldini and Biederman did with the writing. The book is fairly explicit. There are penises and vaginas. There is oral sex. There is virginity and the losing of virginity. But all of this happens with Amanda’s vocabulary and preparedness and it is brilliantly done. The first time she sees a penis she can’t even use a noun. It is simply “it”. No slang, no terminology….just “it”. And she doesn’t just see ”it”. ”It” is in her mouth, but she doesn’t have the terminology or emotional level to name what’s happening. All she knows is if Paul wants her, then he will want all of her and she gets to be loved, in loved, and everyone gets to know it. She knows she needs to play her part to get the boy, but she doesn’t understand why she feels so empty and horrible after. And this leads into the second flaw: girls enjoying sex. Amanda only gets to enjoy the physical sensations in a few parts of the book. This sort of makes sense because she’s letting the boys do all of the negotiating and meeting all of their needs, but there’s little talk of how and when she enjoys being with Paul and then Rick. There is one veiled masturbation reference that I’m guessing goes over a lot of readers’ heads. Female sexuality is not seen in a positive light with Amanda’s friends, either. They are a group of four and the one friend who says she has sex and enjoys is is dismissed as a “nympho”, Amanda feels he shouldn’t be proud of her reputation, and that she isn’t even really their friend. It’s a weird message. It’s clear that Amanda shouldn’t be giving it up so boys will pay attention to her, but girls also shouldn’t be in control and enjoying sex? I didn’t like that there the only female positive experience was pushed into the “slut” column. Girls aren’t having orgasms in this book, at least that we know of. Finally, the format of the book is clever and works well with the plot. Amanda is really good at poetry and Baldini and Biederman break up some of the chapters with her poems. It’s used really well because Amanda will talk about how she’s done with her mom and she’s not going to try anymore, but the next page will be a poem showing how much she wants things to be OK between them. Baldini and Biederman also use The Captain’s emails to show another side of her. Marion is the only person she can talk to, so we get to see her frustrations and disappointments. It was interesting to see a fight play out and then get The Captain’s run down of the events. Using Amanda’s narration, her poems and her mother’s emails works very well. Overall, I liked this one a lot. I hope it’s got an audience and is leading girls to ask good questions about sex and all the reasons why to have it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    TJL

    Overall, an infuriating (but otherwise pretty good) book. This is the first time I ever really did consistent progress updates while reading a story, so all of my ranting on that can be summed up as this: Susan, aka The Captain aka Amanda's Mom, was abusive as hell. Physically, emotionally, mentally. She called her names, implied Amanda was stupid on multiple occasions, and during the dress-shopping scene? I strongly suspect that she nearly made a derogatory remark to the effect of "you look like Overall, an infuriating (but otherwise pretty good) book. This is the first time I ever really did consistent progress updates while reading a story, so all of my ranting on that can be summed up as this: Susan, aka The Captain aka Amanda's Mom, was abusive as hell. Physically, emotionally, mentally. She called her names, implied Amanda was stupid on multiple occasions, and during the dress-shopping scene? I strongly suspect that she nearly made a derogatory remark to the effect of "you look like a slut" (which is a sentiment she wasn't afraid to throw around). Amanda confirms at one point that her mother slapped her, in front of her friends, because she was late coming home from a movie and forgot to call (so her mother found her outside); she then tries to do it again when she catches Amanda with a boy. Every single time Amanda made a mistake, no matter how unintentional or benign, her mother would jump up her ass about it. And she says in an email that Amanda just "doesn't understand" that she's angry because "this is just more of her usual thoughtlessness and recklessness". Because accidents don't happen, apparently. Couple this with the fact that Amanda is singled out over her sister (which is not unusual in abuse situations), to the point where even her family acknowledges it, I... Shit, man, do I need to say more? Amanda's mom was abusive as hell to her. But overall, I thought it was a good story. Very well-written. My only complaint, though, is that, given how controlling and emotionally abusive she was... IDK I'm just having a hard time believing the sudden transformation that The Captain goes through (view spoiler)[after Marion's death (hide spoiler)] . Like... This woman spent years being hyper-controlling of Amanda, and right up until (view spoiler)[Marion's death (hide spoiler)] she shows absolutely NO SIGNS of self-awareness- no accountability for why Amanda behaves the way she does, no sense of personal responsibility for the situation in their household. It's always someone else's fault, and she makes sure you know it. So this sudden transformation at the end doesn't ring as realistic to me. Beyond that I thought the story was great- emotionally exhausting, but great.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Yan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. First things first: this book is for the mature audience! There is sex! Secondly, the actual review. Personally things reminded me a lot of Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. I only say this because it was about the physical aspect of a relationship, it was about friendship, and it was about family. Unlike Anatomy, Unraveling showed the darker side to sex. It could be used to hurt someone, to take advantage of someone, losing it and regretting it. Amanda has the self-confidence that need First things first: this book is for the mature audience! There is sex! Secondly, the actual review. Personally things reminded me a lot of Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky. I only say this because it was about the physical aspect of a relationship, it was about friendship, and it was about family. Unlike Anatomy, Unraveling showed the darker side to sex. It could be used to hurt someone, to take advantage of someone, losing it and regretting it. Amanda has the self-confidence that needs help and she believes that by doing it with someone they will love her. No she is not a slut nor is she tramp, because of the fact that she realizes what she truly lost and how she regrets that decision. This book is a modern take of the teenage life—sex is not part of love. We speak of love as a transparent being easily disposed of or shifted to what we please. “I love you, now do this for me. I want you so much.” The phrase “I love you” can be as causally spoken as the word “bitch” or “fuck”, so what is the issue with sex? You tell me as I am blatantly aware as to what my peers say--some of which I am disgusted at the talk. This is what Unraveling forces me to think. Does any one regret their decision as a mistake as Amanda did? Or is this just part of human nature—live and learn? So what goes through Amanda’s mind that by doing it with that person, they will love her? Family troubles. People always say that they will never be like their parents, but how often nor not does that truly happen? It is embedded within us. That was the case with Amanda’s mother. So it was to be expected that the constant belittling, scolds and yells from her makes Amanda feel this way. Who wouldn’t? We are talking about family dynamics, family issues, and family pressure that make one crack underneath the surface. We turn to the false promises and half-spoken truth to cheer us up. In Amanda’s case, however, it was the turn to potential boyfriends turned “I love you. I want you” turned “what have I just done”. Friendship can be another life raft. They are what float us from drowning in misery. They help us, advise us, and concern themselves for us. Unraveling shows us this as Amanda journeys through this entire process. So this is the essence of Unraveling. Life, coming undone from life. Bit by bit we lose ourselves in life and we are finally left with something we can grow, to be proud of, to take matters into our own hands and roll the dices. My major compliant would be the disjointedness in some scenes. The mother and daughter relationship starts out rocky, then goes through a jungle, and comes out as a butterfly. The transition was too fast, jumping abruptly from the jungle to the butterfly stage. And because this was a first person point of view the actual scenes can differ. Was the mother really that horrid? Was Amanda exaggerating? Also, Amanda read her mother’s personal emails to her close friend, some of which was about her. Amanda’s mother believes she is trying to help her, acting more kindly towards her than what Amanda says, so why did she not return those attempts back to the mother? It was a lot of blame passed around and not much action to prevent this. Overall: A hefty read for such a small book. It was more of the thoughts it provoked that appealed to me. The actual book reminded me of something trying a bit too hard at times.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Unraveling is the story of Amanda, a very normal fifteen year old sophomore, who is struggling; struggling with her mother, her friends, her family, and her sexuality. At fifteen that’s status quo. Amanda makes some poor choices and ends up losing her virginity to a guy (Rick) who doesn’t care about her and is only using her. Again, status quo. Well, maybe not status quo, but it happens more than it should. Amanda is faced with moving on, repairing herself, and healing broken relationships. I t Unraveling is the story of Amanda, a very normal fifteen year old sophomore, who is struggling; struggling with her mother, her friends, her family, and her sexuality. At fifteen that’s status quo. Amanda makes some poor choices and ends up losing her virginity to a guy (Rick) who doesn’t care about her and is only using her. Again, status quo. Well, maybe not status quo, but it happens more than it should. Amanda is faced with moving on, repairing herself, and healing broken relationships. I thought I’d hate this book and truly I don’t know if I do. I guess the jury is still out, but it did bring back some teenage emotions of old. Amanda: “Why is the first time such a big deal?” I asked. The word deal hung in the air. Aunt Jen: “Every time is a big deal, really. I guess it’s just that once you lose your virginity, that’s it; you don’t own it anymore.” Amanda: “Own it?” Aunt Jen: “I mean it’s really one of the first times as a young adult you can control, or really decide when you go through a certain rite of passage…” Errr... wow... "Own it?" Aunt Jen is speaking from experience here and her emotions and intentions are valid, but "own it?" Is love (and the physical act of love - sex) something to be owned? Is it a possession that can never be returned? No, love can be returned and many times fold. You can never have another "first time," but you can receive the love you give. I just think ownership sends the wrong message. Besides there's always a "first time" for everything. But I stand behind Aunt Jen's statement, "Every time is a big deal, really." That's true. Every time is a big deal and it should be. Amanda describes her first sexual encounter - "Just as I was floating, reality a million miles away, he was done. Over and out. Message delivered, mission accomplished, line disconnected." And that was it. Rick said a handful of words to Amanda after that and their relationship was over. Done. Ouch. Let’s get this out of the way – not all guys who deflower girls are using A-holes. I’m going out on a limb to say that normal guys are quite normal about sex, but Rick isn’t normal. He’s 100% Grade-A jerk, thus explaining Amanda’s emotional upheaval. This shouldn't happen, but it does. A cautionary tale? You bet. I guess what I'm trying to say here (after much rambling) is that for a YA coming-of-age novel Unraveling is a bit over the top. I think it's a cautionary tale that sends both the right and wrong message. Right message - Share your love (emotional and physical) wisely. When you invest in a person and love them you always leave yourself open. You can choose who you love. Choose with your head and heart. And even after hurt you can still choose - everything. Wrong message - Losing your virginity to someone gives them ownership. You are still you and you still get to choose. I think Amanda gets that right in the end.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer Wardrip

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com Amanda's life is unraveling. She is excited for their family vacation to Myrtle Beach. She has been planning a rendezvous with Paul, a lifeguard that she met the previous summer. Paul is older and is expecting some excitement with Amanda this summer. It's only after Amanda is alone with Paul that she realizes she's not ready to give him everything she wants. So after some experimentation, the two head back to their respective homes. But the two encounter Am Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com Amanda's life is unraveling. She is excited for their family vacation to Myrtle Beach. She has been planning a rendezvous with Paul, a lifeguard that she met the previous summer. Paul is older and is expecting some excitement with Amanda this summer. It's only after Amanda is alone with Paul that she realizes she's not ready to give him everything she wants. So after some experimentation, the two head back to their respective homes. But the two encounter Amanda's mom, aka The Captain. From there, the rest of the vacation takes a downward spiral and the family heads home early. Life doesn't get any better for Amanda once she's back home. The school year starts and she knows she won't get the coveted open spot on the swimming relay team. Courtney, Fakey Flakey, will get the opening. She's guaranteed the spot because her family has offered the family swim club for the team to practice in while the school facility is being repaired. Courtney's boyfriend, Rick, starts to talk to Amanda, and soon, Amanda is secretly meeting up with Rick and making out with him. Amanda thinks that she can get back at Courtney through Rick. But Rick won't break up with Courtney, stating his family expects him to be with her. But the two strike a deal. If Rick takes Amanda to Homecoming, she'll have sex with him. Amanda and her mom are always at odds. Her younger sister can do no wrong, but Amanda is always the one getting in trouble. Thankfully, her Aunt Jen defends her to her mother. Amanda's dad sticks up for her, but it's her mother that runs the house. Amanda has to get permission from her mom to go to the dance. Of course, she can't let her know she's got a date. She has to delicately tread water. Once she gets the okay, it's her Aunt Jen who helps convince her mom with the perfect dress. Needless to say, the dance doesn't go as planned, and she is used by Rick. When she comes home early saying she's sick, her mom immediately jumps to the assumption that Amanda was up to no good. Her mom can never give her the benefit of the doubt. As the story unfolds, Amanda gains insight into what drives her mother. The two can never see eye to eye. It's only when tragedy hits her mother that Amanda (and maybe her mom) can start to connect again. And then maybe Amanda can stop unraveling. Ms. Baldini and Ms. Biederman write an honest and moving story of a girl whose world seems to be falling apart. Amanda feels unloved and unwelcome in her own home. She searches for meaning and acceptance and love anywhere that she can. The depth of her feelings is believable and heartfelt. Interspersed throughout the story are poems that Amanda writes. They tie the story together perfectly, blending together the plot with Amanda's thoughts. UNRAVELING is definitely written for the older teen, though, with a lot of sexual content. It is not explicit, but it is mentioned frequently.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Unraveling was really honest, definitely not something geared towards the younger kids. I mean, I went in expecting something honest and came out with something that’s not only honest but extremely real as well. Unraveling talks a lot about the problems that we teens face today – sex, overbearing moms, drugs, self-image, etc. Amanda is just like any other ordinary girl. She wants to be accepted especially with guys and she wants to find love. So when she makes this deal with Rick, the gorgeous se Unraveling was really honest, definitely not something geared towards the younger kids. I mean, I went in expecting something honest and came out with something that’s not only honest but extremely real as well. Unraveling talks a lot about the problems that we teens face today – sex, overbearing moms, drugs, self-image, etc. Amanda is just like any other ordinary girl. She wants to be accepted especially with guys and she wants to find love. So when she makes this deal with Rick, the gorgeous senior, she thinks she found it all – that he’ll love her and she’ll be accepted among everyone. Long behold, that’s not what happened. She finds herself facing issues that goes way beyond her years and she learns to accept herself and learns that if she herself can’t acknowledge herself, no one else can. Personally, I didn’t really like Amanda because of all the wrong decisions she made. For me, I thought it was obvious – what was right and what was wrong – so when she made the wrong choice, I really wanted to slap her and tell her that she’s stupid. Yet in the same way, I kind of understood why she chose the things she chose. Amanda is not like the other typical teens I have been reading – she’s dumb and weak as in not having a backbone. At the same time, she’s just like the other teens – she faces the problems we [they:] face and she’s shy. So for me, Amanda was a girl I had mixed feelings about. The plot itself was fairly entertaining. I definitely didn’t grow to love this book and I personally feel that the brutal honesty of it all was too much for me. There were times where I felt sick and disgusted with what Rick and Amanda were doing. However, despite all these negative feelings, if I had to read it again, I would just because I can experience what exactly the teens face today.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shalonda

    Since reading a starred review of Unraveling in Publishers Weekly, I have been dying to get my hands on this book. While I found the book to be entertaining, it fell short of my expectations. I was far from impressed by the character development. Very simply put, Amanda lacked depth. While I was hoping Amanda would eventually become a strong, independent young woman, she remained spineless throughout the novel. Being a static character, she never quite mustered up enough courage to stand up for h Since reading a starred review of Unraveling in Publishers Weekly, I have been dying to get my hands on this book. While I found the book to be entertaining, it fell short of my expectations. I was far from impressed by the character development. Very simply put, Amanda lacked depth. While I was hoping Amanda would eventually become a strong, independent young woman, she remained spineless throughout the novel. Being a static character, she never quite mustered up enough courage to stand up for herself, but in the end it showed an accurate portrayal of a typical teenaged girl. In addition, while this book was full of bright moments which made me laugh, it had its equal share of moments that fell flat. I was not consistently immersed in the book until the last 60 pages or so, and I wanted to give up on it a few times. I am glad I stuck it out because the resolution left me satisfied. Perhaps the best thing about Unraveling was its format. Rather than just your typical prose, this novel consisted of emails and fortunes from fortune cookies (Amanda collects them). In addition, each altercation between Amanda and her mother was given a clever name, such as Commotion at the Ocean, Slayed over Grades, and Butting Heads over Threads. Finally, Amanda's poems (written by Gabrielle Biederman) breathed life into this book. These beautifully written pieces gave us insight as to whom Amanda truly was. While this book had its flaws, it provided an authentic look into the life of a teenager and is worth a read.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    At first, I hated this book. I picked the book up because of the cover and the summary looked kind of stupid. It was the only book I borrowed from the library, so I was like, "Okay, might as well read it." I read the beginning of the book and it was actually pretty bad. Anna was trying to lose her virginity just to gain popularity and The Boss (her mother) seemed to neglect her. I was thinking, "What the heck is she (The Boss) thinking?" However, as I continued reading, I realized that despite t At first, I hated this book. I picked the book up because of the cover and the summary looked kind of stupid. It was the only book I borrowed from the library, so I was like, "Okay, might as well read it." I read the beginning of the book and it was actually pretty bad. Anna was trying to lose her virginity just to gain popularity and The Boss (her mother) seemed to neglect her. I was thinking, "What the heck is she (The Boss) thinking?" However, as I continued reading, I realized that despite the summary of the book, the story actually centered on the relationship between a daughter and her mother. They couldn't get along because of their two-ends-of-the-spectrum opinions. The mother was trying too hard and the daughter believed she was unwanted, so therefore, they didn't understand each other. I liked reading Susan's emails to Marion. The dynamic changes in the characters were very noticeable. I got teary at many parts, especially the parts when Amanda realized something profound and deep, like when she read her mother's emails, she foudnd out that her mother does actually try and make their relationship work. While reading this story, it made me reflect my relationship with my mother.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Mrs. Hagedorn Hagedorn

    Official book description : "THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking for acceptance, Amanda turns her attention to boys, and doing whatever she can to be popular at school. Official book description : "THE SMART THING Is to Prepare for the Unexpected. So reads the fortune cookie fortune that Amanda receives at the beginning of her family’s vacation to Florida. Amanda knows all about preparing for the unexpected—her mother, whom she calls The Captain, is always hard on Amanda, and it’s just when Amanda lets her guard down that the very worst comes through. Looking for acceptance, Amanda turns her attention to boys, and doing whatever she can to be popular at school. That includes making out with the gorgeous senior Rick in his car after school—even though he has a girlfriend. And when Rick offers her The Deal—a real, official date to the Homecoming in front of everyone, in exchange for her virginity—Amanda jumps at the chance. But no matter how you try to prepare for the unexpected, sometimes you can’t. Sharp, chatty, and brutally honest, this debut novel is compulsively readable and heartbreakingly real." This is a realistic story but is about a mature topic. It has real lessons that some can learn from.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christina Getrost

    Excellent story of a mother and daughter relationship that is rocky but real. Sophomore Amanda Himmelfarb has a lot of issues with "The Captain," as she secretly calls her stern no-nonsense mother, who has 500 Rules to follow and who long ago stopped hugging her oldest daughter or showing much affection. Amanda has issues with her perfect younger sister, "Malady", too, and this summer everything seems to go from bad to worse. All Amanda really wants is close personal time with a hot guy--and she Excellent story of a mother and daughter relationship that is rocky but real. Sophomore Amanda Himmelfarb has a lot of issues with "The Captain," as she secretly calls her stern no-nonsense mother, who has 500 Rules to follow and who long ago stopped hugging her oldest daughter or showing much affection. Amanda has issues with her perfect younger sister, "Malady", too, and this summer everything seems to go from bad to worse. All Amanda really wants is close personal time with a hot guy--and she thinks maybe this will be THE summer she does "it" with gorgeous Paul at the beach...but not if her mother has anything to do about it. I found myself going through a lot of emotions as I read this, because so much of it rang true with my own mother-daughter relationship, and i was even reminded of the days when my younger sister was pretty annoying and perfect... Very well written story about that hardest of all loves, between a mom and a daughter.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Angela

    I found the jacket copy description of this book to be rather misleading. The summary makes it out to be a story of losing ones virginity and the consequences of decisions about sex, but the story really is much more about Amanda and her mother trying to understand each other. Neither story line felt entirely compelling to me, as the book was a very fast read and didn't spend as much time as it could have on either problem. Amanda is a witty and chatty narrator, so that made it fun to read, as we I found the jacket copy description of this book to be rather misleading. The summary makes it out to be a story of losing ones virginity and the consequences of decisions about sex, but the story really is much more about Amanda and her mother trying to understand each other. Neither story line felt entirely compelling to me, as the book was a very fast read and didn't spend as much time as it could have on either problem. Amanda is a witty and chatty narrator, so that made it fun to read, as well as the inclusion of the fortune cookie fortunes Amanda collects, the poetry she writes, and her mother's e-mails to her best friend. The variety of genres used to tell the story paint an interesting picture that's worth a read, but this won't be a stand out addition to teen sexuality and/or mothers and daughters literature.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    I read this once before and thought it was good but nothing really special. Re-reading it changed my mind a bit. I'm not saying that it is the best book ever now, I just see it in a different light. I just with the fact that I haven't seen my own mother in a while that I was able to really see the different relationship mother and daughters have without thinking about how different mine is with my own mother. It made me miss my mother more than I already do. Though at times, I had a hard time wi I read this once before and thought it was good but nothing really special. Re-reading it changed my mind a bit. I'm not saying that it is the best book ever now, I just see it in a different light. I just with the fact that I haven't seen my own mother in a while that I was able to really see the different relationship mother and daughters have without thinking about how different mine is with my own mother. It made me miss my mother more than I already do. Though at times, I had a hard time with Amanda. So many things she did and say I was just thinking "Why? Just stop talking. Think!" I loved her poetry and her thought process (at times) but I wished she did things differently, thought about herself more, in a good light. I think the second time around made me cry more. 4/5 stars which is a step up from the 3/5 stars I had previously given the first time around.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Heidi

    I got so emotional with this. not like crying, but like fear and happy and anxiety but I loved it so much

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kricket

    loved this. some thoughts: -the cover both frightens me and cracks me up (that look on her face!) -i liked that this falls into the category of "problem novel" but was still unlike anything i'd read before -i love how fleshed out the characters are. especially amanda's mom. so nice to get her side of the story and see why she was the way she was. -amanda herself was so real to me. the way she behaves with guys, the poems she writes, everything. reminds me of myself in high school, i suppose. all in loved this. some thoughts: -the cover both frightens me and cracks me up (that look on her face!) -i liked that this falls into the category of "problem novel" but was still unlike anything i'd read before -i love how fleshed out the characters are. especially amanda's mom. so nice to get her side of the story and see why she was the way she was. -amanda herself was so real to me. the way she behaves with guys, the poems she writes, everything. reminds me of myself in high school, i suppose. all in all, highly recommended.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. - the font was too big - I wanted to scream at the narrator for befriending her mother in the end, even after all the crap Mom put her through. She was truly awful. I'm disappointed in you, Amanda Himmelfarb - I fully expected Amanda to back out of the bargain-sex with Rick, citing precious flowerhood or some moral imperative and thus embark on some phony self-discovery mission. Well, she didn't. Very very unusual for YA fiction, often rife with lame virginity-hoarding plotlines. Bravo, authors, o - the font was too big - I wanted to scream at the narrator for befriending her mother in the end, even after all the crap Mom put her through. She was truly awful. I'm disappointed in you, Amanda Himmelfarb - I fully expected Amanda to back out of the bargain-sex with Rick, citing precious flowerhood or some moral imperative and thus embark on some phony self-discovery mission. Well, she didn't. Very very unusual for YA fiction, often rife with lame virginity-hoarding plotlines. Bravo, authors, on that point at least.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    Another book of teen angst. In this one, Amanda is unhappy with her hair, her mother, and her lack of boyfriend. When she decides that getting a boyfriend will solve all her problems (some of which aren't even hers to solve) she risks everything to achieve her goal. It's like watching a train wreck. You know what's coming, but can't look away. The characters were alternately heartless and cold, or emotional and out of control. It made for an interesting read, but not my favorite. Another book of teen angst. In this one, Amanda is unhappy with her hair, her mother, and her lack of boyfriend. When she decides that getting a boyfriend will solve all her problems (some of which aren't even hers to solve) she risks everything to achieve her goal. It's like watching a train wreck. You know what's coming, but can't look away. The characters were alternately heartless and cold, or emotional and out of control. It made for an interesting read, but not my favorite.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bethany

    I didn't really like this book. It made me realize even more how much I love my mom because if I had her mom I would be dead, cause I would have killed myself. The girl in the book is really dumb too. I mean seriously? Lets just give a bj to every guy that says I look hot. I also feel a little bad for her too but not very... I didn't really like this book. It made me realize even more how much I love my mom because if I had her mom I would be dead, cause I would have killed myself. The girl in the book is really dumb too. I mean seriously? Lets just give a bj to every guy that says I look hot. I also feel a little bad for her too but not very...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Roslyn

    I couldn't put this book down. I needed to know how Amanda was going to turn out in the end, and unfortunatley it was just too pat of an ending. It wrapped up too nicely. But I loved the drama and intensity of the book. The anger, pain, and dysfuntion of the family was at times hard to take, but it also just pulled you in. I couldn't put this book down. I needed to know how Amanda was going to turn out in the end, and unfortunatley it was just too pat of an ending. It wrapped up too nicely. But I loved the drama and intensity of the book. The anger, pain, and dysfuntion of the family was at times hard to take, but it also just pulled you in.

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