Book: Fact of Life #31
Author: Denise Vega
Kat Flynn is sick of her job in a home-birth midwife's office. Her boss, Abra, never listens to a word she says and delivers improving lectures constantly. After a disastrous episode at a birth, Kat's not even being allowed to think about helping out at deliveries anymore. She's got to quit. Too bad her boss is also her mom.
Then Kat finds out that the most popular girl in school is pregnant. Now Libby Giles is hanging around constantly, bonding with Abra in a way Kat's never been able to manage. To Kat's surprise and resentment, she finds that she can't exactly hate Libby. Under the popular gloss, there's a girl who's just as confused and confusing as Kat herself.
In fact, she's realizing that a lot of her peers, girl and boy, popular and pitiful, are more than they seem. But the one person whose outer shell she can't seem to pierce is her own mother. As Libby gets closer and closer to delivery, the gulf between Kat and Abra widens until it seems impossible that they'll ever understand each other.
From the description, I thought this was going to be a much fluffier book. It's fun, but underneath there were more serious themes of Kat growing into herself and her own abilities, as well as coming to understand the complexities of other people underneath their labels.
What I loved about this book was the way that Denise Vega told the whole story. In places where other authors would have stopped (the adorable crush finally asks pining girl out, jerky boyfriend is roundly dumped for being, y'know, a jerk, daughter finally tells her mother what she thinks), Vega went on, taking us through overlapping series of character and relationship arcs that wind up telling a much more complete story.
Also, Kat is quirky, but not in that, "Look at me, I am sooooo quirky!" way. She does yoga in the halls and genuinely doesn't take offense at the way people snicker and mock. At the same time, she's not the Amazing Zen Girl. She gets mad and scared and confused about her feelings. You can see how much she is like her mom, and how unlike, so that their constant battles ring true as the normal push-pull of a mother and her teenage daughter.
Try this one for a novel about a young woman finding her way into her own skin.