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Another Life Altogether

3.50  ·  Rating Details  ·  326 Ratings  ·  55 Reviews
A profoundly moving, heartrending story of a girl's struggle to love her mother in spite of her frightening mental illness

After years of living in the shadow of her mother's mental illness, thirteen-year-old Jesse Bennett is given a fresh chance at happiness when her family moves to a village near the coast of Northern England. But just when it seems Jesse might be able to
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published February 23rd 2010 by Spiegel & Grau (first published January 1st 2010)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,226)
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Ellen Keim
Mar 30, 2010 Ellen Keim rated it really liked it
Elaine Beale managed to take me inside the mind of a typical thirteen-year-old girl; typical, that is, except for the fact that her mother is mentally ill (probably bipolar) and she herself is just beginning to realize that she might be gay. Like every child her age, her overwhelming desire is to "fit in," but first she has to learn the costs of playing by the rules or of being true to herself. I rooted for Jesse as she fought valiantly to learn how to be honest with herself, her friends and her ...more
Jean Roberta
Jun 29, 2010 Jean Roberta rated it it was amazing
Another Life Altogether by Elaine Beale (Random House of Canada, 2010).

Reviewed by Jean Roberta. 870 words.

Growing-up-lesbian or coming-out novels seem hard to write well. If the central character is below the age of consent throughout most of the plot, references to sexual feelings (let alone sexual activity) are likely to be so controversial that they distract attention away from all the other elements in the book. Or the author's approach to a character who looks
Mar 28, 2010 Cindy rated it liked it
I wanted to get to the end, to both find out how the protagonist deals with her life's crisis, but also because I found the prose a bit tedious. I loved the setting, the coast of the North Sea in the UK. I fell in love with the protagonist, young Jesse Bennett (13 yoa) who was facing several challenges at once - a mentally ill mother, her own sexual orientation, and peer acceptance. I had no love for anyone else - her mentally ill, suicidal mother, her spineless, compliant father, her desperate ...more
I give this book 3 stars because the language itself is quite lovely. The story, on the other hand, leaves something to be desired. Jesse is a fairly standard teenage-girl-who-finally-learns-to-stand-up-for-herself-and-for-what's-right. She's a sympathetic character, but not a very interesting one. She seems like a dynamic character only because all the others are flat as pancakes (her parents don't so much grow as characters as just randomly start acting differently toward the end). Ultimately, ...more
Mar 20, 2010 Anne rated it really liked it
A very well written coming of age story set in 1970's England. The book focuses on one year in the life of Jesse a 13/14 year old girl living in a small England town with a mother who is bipolar. Jesse not only struggles with a very unhappy home life, but with trying to hide the fact that her mother is crazy from her schoolmates. Unfortunately, when the kids at school discover her secret, Jesse feels her life is ruined. Jesse is given a second chance when her family moves to a new town, and she ...more
Feb 28, 2010 Emily rated it it was ok
Another Life Altogether by Elaine Beale tells the story of Jesse Bennett, a 13 year old girl. Jesse's life is complex and heartbreaking. She lives with a bi-polar mother and a father who largely turns his back on the problems. At school, Jesse is bullied and has difficulty finding her place. She is increasingly confused about her sexual orientation, which complicates matters further.

With all these things going on, one may assume that this novel is emotionally gripping. One would assume incorrec
Glenda Hunter
Nov 13, 2010 Glenda Hunter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels

I was really impressed with Another Life Altogether by Elaine Beale. It is a coming of age story with spunky Jesse Bennett, who desperately wants to fit in at her new school. She has challenges with her mother who is mentally ill and her family who are an odd assortment with her Aunt Mabel and Jesse's over-burdened father. It touches on human prejudices and the aftermath of the ones who are affected. The story felt real and Jesse Bennett is a very memorab
"After years of living in the shadows of her mother's mental illness, Jesse Bennett is given a fresh chance at happiness when her family moves to a village in northern England. But just as it seems that she might be able to build a perfect life for herself after befriending two of her new school's most popular girls, her mother's worsening mental state and the secret Jesse fiercely guards about herself threaten to destroy her fragile stability. Caught in the storm of her mother's moods, her fath ...more
Dec 29, 2015 Juliet rated it it was amazing
I'm honestly beginning to love LGBT YA
Books right now. I've only read three but they've all moved me in some way.
Keeping you a secret was a relatable story for anyone questioning their sexuality in a sudden, oh my gosh moment.

Ask the Passengers was more of a I must be gay because I'm really into this girl book.

Then Another Life Altogether is just something else. A young girl faced in a world that still doesn't understand homosexuality at all and she doesn't get it either along with the fear o
Sep 11, 2014 Cassandra rated it really liked it

I really loved this book. It did an amazing job of bringing together not just a believable main character, but amazing supporting ones as well. The actions of Evelyn really hit home with me, as someone who has been diagnosed with depression myself. Before being prescribed the right medication, I too went through highs and lows almost equivalent to what was shown in the book. It was insightful and sad to read about a child growing up in a house where the mother is suffering so and the
Mar 04, 2014 Linda rated it really liked it
It's just so good to read a book full of beautiful prose, such gorgeous sentence structure and language. I notice people have complained the the book is depressing or doesn't move very fast - that's what I liked about it. It's not glossy and glitzy and so far removed the banal. It was quite heart rending; I wish I could scoop Jesse up and out of her life. The 70s were such a hard time to grow up in with more freedom but still the era of children being seen and not heard. The only thing I could c ...more
Rachel Pieters
Aug 25, 2015 Rachel Pieters rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, ya
Although it took me a bit of work to get into this book, once I got into it, it carried me along like a surfer on a far-reaching wave.

The characters were realistic and I felt their struggles, and they were obviously based on real people and real experiences, as was the entire book. I was a bit lost in the beginning b/c I couldn't tell the age of the character, but had to guess, until it was finally revealed on page 58, and the time it was set in wasn't overly clear either, with the exception of
Elevate Difference
Dec 13, 2009 Elevate Difference rated it it was amazing
Elaine Beale crafts the engrossing coming-of-age and coming out story of Jesse Bennet in Another Life Altogether. Jesse lives on the northeast coast of England, one of the world’s fastest eroding coastlines. The constant threat of the breakdown of the cliffs is mirrored by Jesse’s mother’s constant threat of mental collapse. The book begins with her mother in Delapole, the local mental hospital, though Jesse tells her classmates that her mother is on a cruise; her hope is to impress a girl she h ...more
Sep 04, 2010 S. rated it liked it
Jesse Bennett’s mother has just attempted suicide. Her befuddled father’s response is to relocate the family to a rundown house in a seaside village for a fresh start. Thus begins Jesse’s thirteenth summer. Hoping to start over as part of the popular crowd in her new school, Jesse befriends the mean girl Trace and her trio of followers, the Debbies. Membership to this group, however, requires Jesse to stand by and watch as a boy is terrorized by homophobic bullies. Jesse knows she must guard two ...more
Sep 16, 2011 pdxmaven rated it really liked it

Narrated by Jesse Bennett, an English teen with a bipolar mom. Jesse tried valiantly (understandably) to keep her mom's situation/mental illness secret, though her initial attempt to disguise her mother's mental hospitalization as an around-the-world cruise is ultimately found out and thereby backfires terribly. The family moves to the country, into the epitome of a fixer-upper, necessitating a new school and new friends but also the opportunity of a fresh start. Jesse gets a crush on the older
Teena in Toronto
Jan 21, 2012 Teena in Toronto rated it liked it
I had a hard time getting into this book because it's so depressing. There's nothing good in Jesse's life ... she's 13 and it's set in the 1970s in England. It's Jesse's voice telling the story.

Her mother is either in bed for weeks not showering or eating or she's in a frenzy with some project (like fixing the garden or renovating the house).

Jesse's dad goes to work and spends his evenings tuning out the world by watching TV. It's up to Jesse to make sure that meals are made and there's some sem
Jan 06, 2015 Becky rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Jesse Bennett is a girl caught between a rock and a crazy place in 1970s England. Her mother suffers with a mental disorder and her father is coping by ignoring the severity of the problem. Jesse doesn't fit in at school or at home. When the family moves, Jesse hopes for a new start where no one knows about her crazy home life. Then she meets Amanda and her inner life is sent spiraling through confusing emotions. A girl so desperate for love and acceptance, she would do almost anything.

The char
While the major plot events were a bit predictable, the story in between was quite well-written. Also I must admit I was brought pretty close to tears at the very end.
Marjorie Elwood
Sep 20, 2010 Marjorie Elwood rated it liked it
Shelves: glbt
This was an interesting read. It started off slow and I wasn't sure that I would bother to finish it, but after about 50 pages the pace picked up and a plot appeared. Within a short while, I again wasn't sure that I would complete it, because there was the threat of impending violence against some GLBT characters and there's enough of that in real life for me not to wish to read about it in a novel. However, the threats didn't materialize and I finished the book. In the end, it's essentially a c ...more
Janine R.
Feb 21, 2010 Janine R. rated it it was amazing
I loved this book from beginning to end. At times wickedly funny and others heartbreaking, I felt completely absorbed in the world of the protagonist, a thirteen year old girl with a great voice and a vivid and highly dysfunctional family. I read the whole thing in a couple of days and felt completely transported. Overall, I loved the way that this writer was able to take me to a grim place and yet create a story that was so full of humor and hope. And it was very beautifully written, too.
This was an excellent book with several themes woven throughout. It's told from the point of view of a teenager who is not only coping with her mother's mental illness but also coming to terms with her own lesbian sexual orientation. In my opinion, it describes very well what it is like to deal with both of these issues, including her father's (mostly) denial of her mother's illness and his oddball means of dealing with it. The book definitely had more substance to it than expected.
Too tawdry and clichéd.
May 23, 2010 Carol added it
A coming of age novel, set in England, which convincingly depicts the challenges of growing up with a mother who is manic/depressive. The dialogue and everyday details really bring the story and characters to life, although at times this is rather disturbing. The cruelty of the main character's classmates to one another is heartbreaking, especially when the taunts are about sexual orientation. But the narrator gradually comes to terms with herself, her family, and her life.
Sep 22, 2010 Jan rated it really liked it
An excellent first novel about a thirteen-year-old British girl whose mother is mentally ill. Jesse Bennett has the misfortune to be figuring out she's queer right around the time her mother is becoming ever more floridly bipolar and suicidal. This doesn't sound like a subject for laughter, but the wry, slightly goofy, very British humor in the book had me laughing aloud with regularity. A good read for adults and for intelligent teens like the book's protagonist.
Darlene Lafontaine
Aug 30, 2011 Darlene Lafontaine rated it liked it
I read this over a week and felt it truly addresses a teens view on mental illness. The breakdown resonates with many youngsters today and their need to have someone there that can guide them. In this case, the mother with a mental illness cannot and the main character is left to figure it out on her own. Told from a teens perspective, I truly understood her insights and really cared for her character. Great read overall.
Jan 04, 2011 Kris rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 31, 2013 Tamari rated it it was amazing
This novel has a very loveable and funny main character in Jesse Bennett, with really beautiful sentiments on love and caring for others. It is pretty heartbreaking as it deals with mental illness and homophobia in the 1970s - a stark reminder to me of kids who have to grow up early looking after their own parents, and the kids who are in agony for just being themselves.
Feb 18, 2010 Abbey rated it really liked it
I received this book as an advanced copy from the publisher & I'm really glad that I did. It's a book that I probably would not have been aware of or picked up on my own. "Another Life Altogether" is a beautifully written story about a teenage girl named Jesse Bennett & the struggles she has to endure in her family life, social life and also with her own identity.
Mar 05, 2010 Heather rated it liked it
I like the language of this book, but overall the book is just so so. It does capture the many difficulties of growing up and includes having a crazy family life to add to the mix. I do love my mental health. I did enjoy the aspect of young girl lesbianism which you don't read about too much. School girl crushes on school girls strangely entertain me.
Carol Stryker
Feb 20, 2010 Carol Stryker rated it really liked it
I received a prepublication copy of this book. The storyline of an adolescent girl dealing with issues of her own sexuality and acceptance by her peers, as well as her mother's mental illness, is engrossing. Elaine Beale does an excellent job of developing the characters of a truly dysfunctional family. Several subplots add to the appeal of the story.
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“Instead of killing herself, I wondered, could a person just shrink and crumple until she became nothing, until her traits and quirks wasted along with her body, until one day you realized that she had faded away?” 2 likes
“There's nothing wrong with what you said in those letters. Nothing you should feel ashamed of. No matter what anyone else says, Jesse, I want you to know that.” 1 likes
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