Thursday, 9 June 2011
Review: My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
First published in: 2007
Staying on track at school means a boy-free equation for Rhonda Lee, who spends most evenings doing homework and eating Chinese takeout with her dad. While Rhonda needs a scholarship for college, some kids at her private high school, like beautiful Sarah Gamble, seem to coast along on popularity and their parents' money. When forced to tutor Sarah in trigonometry, Rhonda recognizes all too well the symptoms - queasiness, puking, and exhaustion - that Sarah is trying to mask. On a sudden impulse, Rhonda shares her past with Sarah. Exchanging their secrets adds up to more truths than either girl would have dreamed.
I really liked this one. I know many people will hear "deals with teen pregnancy and abortion" and think issue novel and put it back on the shelf. DO NOT do this with this book. It doesn't moralise or pass judgment on the characters and it's not really about abortion, as such. It's about Rhonda and her struggle to love and trust again after what she's been through. Being hurt by past experiences and having to overcome that is not an 'issue', it's an universal experience.
Rhonda is a great character, too. She's bright, she's hard-working, she's loyal and she's fair-minded. I actually think she's a great role model for teen girls, despite her early mistakes. It's OK; she didn't spring forth into the world completely awesome, she had to learn to be that way. At the start of the story, Rhonda is closed off - she has a small group of friends but her sole focus is on getting into college and she's sworn off relationships completely. While that's an understandable and not altogether unwise decision for someone with her past, Rhonda's also become distant from her father and disinclined towards making new friends. It's clear she's shutting out more than boys here.
However, Rhonda can't help but bond with Sarah over their similar situations and their friendship begins to open up Rhonda's world again - especially when she gets to know Sarah's brother, David. Sarah and David are probably a little too nice to be true (David's incredibly understanding of Rhonda's "no sex" rule) but I couldn't help but like them, either, and hanging out at their house eating home-made cookies sounds like lots of fun.
Rhonda's relationship with her father is a far more difficult fix and the uncomfortable atmosphere between them is realistically conveyed. Many girls have had to experience that feeling of not being 'daddy's girl' anymore. If I have one complaint against this book, it's that we don't see the final reconciliation between these two. It's a shame, as I felt that the father-daughter relationship was the most vital to Rhonda's character.
Rhonda's a math whizz and something cute that Varian Johnson adds to the text are little diagrams, where Rhonda tries to work out her life as a mathematical equation. It gives you an insight into the character and it's a fun way of doing it. Educational, too.
The happy ending to this book might be a bit too neat (Sarah's life, in particular, seems too tidily wrapped up), but to be honest, after enjoying the characters as much as I did, I didn't care. I wanted everything to work out for Rhonda and I think every reader will feel the same.
Rating: 4 stars