Saturday, August 27, 2011

Review: My Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

My Life UndecidedMy Life Undecided by Jessica Brody

The Scoop:

At two years of age "Baby Brooklyn" fell down a mine shaft. At 15 years of age Brooklyn (no longer Baby) listens to her best friend, Shayne, and decides to host a party in one of her mom's model homes and it catches on fire. In between there have been other decisions that had unfortunate circumstances and the house fire was the culminating disaster that led Brooks to believe that she was incapable of making good decisions. As her community service requirement for the house fire she is scheduled to assist at a local nursing home and becomes the sole entertainment of Mrs. Moody whose one and only form of diversion from her usually "moody" mood is being read to from the book series Choose the Story. In this series the reader makes various decisions to move the story along all in the hopes of coming to the end of the book as the victorious adventurer (but the majority of the storylines end up resulting in the adventurer's death). During the reading of these books to Mrs. Moody, Brooklyn comes up with the idea of getting other people to make decisions for her by creating a blog and polling her readers. And though some of her polls were unimportant in the grand scheme of things (to read The Grapes of Wrath or The Old Man and the Sea or whether or not to try out for the rugby team) there were some tough decisions that she put on the polls that Brooklyn left up to total strangers. Whether to stick with high-maintenence popularity and her faithless "best friend" by taking the path provided by the sexy new student, "Rhett Butler" or to take a new path of semi-ivisibility by becoming closer with "Heimlich" the debate team boy that saved her from choking. These decisions, plus many others, are on Brooklyn's path to finding out who and what she wants to be and in finally understanding WHO she is means maybe she can have her life decided.

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by this premise and was interested in whether a 15-year-old would really stick to her guns about allowing virtual strangers to pick the path of her life. And, except for one very bad decision from the picks of her readers, she stuck with it. That in and of itself was impressive (even though she tried to sway the votes to what she wanted). I think her ability to stick with the results (for the most part) and her determination to discontinue the bad decision path her life seemed to be rolling down saved my impression of her. After she had a giant wrench thrown in her routine (poor, grumpy Mrs. Moody with whom Brooklyn was finally connecting passed away) which sent her back to the life she had before the house fire--besties with "Her Royal Heinous" (Brooklyn's words, not mine) Shayne, two hour pre-school prep for the perfect image, and generally having a lower feeling of self-worth. It was frustrating to see her take a total 180 in her path but I think it was understandable because she had a major emotional set-back due to the passing of Mrs. Moody and it was probably easier for her to fall back in with Shayne and let her make all the decisions rather than using her time and energy to poll her blog readers.

The character of Brooklyn struck me as a very realistic portrayal of a teenager, even if the scrapes and bad decisions she got into were a bit on the extraordinary side. She was sarcastic at times, snarky and selfish. She was also drawn to popularity and downplayed her abilities to be part of a group. All things that normal high school teenagers, unsure of their place in life and maybe lacking confidence in their independence, seem to be likely to do. She was reluctant to interact with the "old people" at the nursing home and she also kept pulling away from the group of people that accepted her no matter what just so she could be on top of the high school food chain again. I never felt that she was acting older than she should or out of character for a typical teenage girl.

And, like my feelings going into reading Enchanted Ivy, I was happy that this was a stand alone book and that I would reach a (hopefully) satisfying conclusion at the end of the story. And I really felt that I did--the pace wasn't rushed and it took place over a long enough span of time that I felt the emotions, connections and decisions that Brooklyn went through and faced were appropriate and not hurried or contrived. Which made me glad that I didn't leave the decision to read this book, uh . . . undecided.


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