Saturday, February 2, 2013

Book review: Now That I Know by Norma Klein

A few years ago I reread a handful of my old favorite Norma Klein books, but the ones I reread were the ones I adored, the ones I'd read dozens of times as a teenager. I have a whole shelf of Klein books though, and not all of them had equal impact. Recently, I thought I'd pass along a few of her books to a young teenager friend, and it occurred to me that I ought to reread them first, and it is most of the books that are on the younger end of Klein's protagonists that I didn't reread a ton. Probably because I aged out of them more quickly. But I thought I'd rectify it now.

It'a unusual to reread a book that wasn't beloved and much-read when I was younger. Those books are like old friends, and I sometimes find I have whole sentences and passages memorized. But in Now That I Know, instead I have a sense of vague familiarity, and I figured out the plot twist pretty much right away. Is that because as an adult it's so much easier to spot, or because the plot is stored somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain and I actually remember the story, if subconsciously? There's no way to know of course.

Nina is thirteen, a 9th grader in New York City whose parents have joint custody so she spends half the week with each. She's a bit worried about her shy, bitter mother being all alone. After all her father has his best friend Greg to hang out with. Greg, who does all the cooking, including breakfast, and always seems to be at their house. Hmmm. I wonder if, reading this book when I was fourteen, I clued in to the real relationship before it came out in the open, but now, it was very obvious to me from about p. 7. Not that that's bad - it's well set up so readers won't feel blindsided by it. I just wonder if perhaps, as a young teen, I was a bit obtuse and also more concerned with Nina becoming the editor of the school paper and there being maybe an interesting boy in her class.

One of Norma Klein's hallmarks is her very three-dimensional, flawed characters, and she doesn't disappoint in Now That I Know. Neither of her parents deal with their situations perfectly (oh, and they're younger than me - when did that happen!?), her best friend is frustrating, and Nina herself is quite flawed, hiding from situations she doesn't like and trying her best not to deal with them head-on. Teens can really identify with these well-rounded and very human characters. It's a tiny bit dated, but not overly (the book's jacket more than anything - denim with denim!) I am definitely going to pass this book on to my friend's daughter, as there's nothing remotely inappropriate, just a tiny bit of language and an acknowledgement that sex exists. I'm so glad I gave it another read!

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.


Jeane said...

This sounds like a very good book- and I would be reading it from an adult perspective, too. I feel pretty sure I read some Norma Klein when I was younger too, but I can't think now which titles.

Julie P. said...

I honestly can't remember ever reading Norma Klein but that just seems impossible, right?