Monday, 26 October 2015

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Title: Unbecoming
Author: Jenny Downham
Published by: David Fickling Books
Publication date: 3rd September 2015
Pages: 437
Genres: YA Contemporary/LGBT/Family
Format: Hardback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story.

Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal.

Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her.

Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of everything', despite suffering from Alzheimer's.

As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic?

In confronting the past, Katie is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love. 

Unbecoming is one of the most beautiful books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. It's honest, raw, hopeful and definitely not unbecoming in the slightest. It's actually not something I would usually want to read, but after getting the sampler at YALC and discovering Unbecoming's parallels with my own life, I needed to know more and was very glad when the book was offered for review.

I loved, loved, LOVED the multi-generational aspect. If I remember rightly, I've only ever read one book like that (Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple, if you're wondering) and it's so interesting to me. There's seventeen-year-old Katie, studying for exams and questioning her sexuality whilst dealing with her parents splitting up and being the person her mother relies upon most. Then there's her mother, Caroline, with a mountain of secrets. And Katie's grandmother, Mary, who has Alzheimer's and needs her memories writing down and her family tree on the wall by her bed so she doesn't forget.

My late great grandmother had Alzheimer's (her name was also Mary, funnily enough) so Unbecoming was a little strange to me at times because of the similarities, but I appreciated it. With Mary's flashbacks and snippets of memories randomly inserted here and there, and with so many complex stories in one book, you'd think it would be confusing to read but it all weaved together seamlessly. I loved reading about the different generations and seeing their differences, their similarities, their struggles and their triumphs. Not only did we see things from Katie's perspective, but also Mary's which was insightful.

I did feel that it dragged quite a lot in places, but other than that I really enjoyed Unbecoming and will definitely be reading more from Jenny Downham soon.


  1. This books sounds so lovely!! I should definitely go buy it... Well, I did spend all my bills money on books, but, if Amber says its a good read, then I must, must go buy it. I am sure my landlord will understand, won't he? :)

  2. I LOVE Jenny Downham. She's one of my favorite authors and I never know when she's releasing a new novel. Thank you for reviewing this because now I'm so excited for it!