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Unbecoming

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  3,243 ratings  ·  592 reviews
Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story.Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal.Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her.Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers.As Katie cares for ...more
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Published 2016 by Scholastic (first published September 3rd 2015)
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Sarina Katie is really trying to disguise the fact that she is gay through dating Jamie, but most of all she is trying to disguise it from herself.…moreKatie is really trying to disguise the fact that she is gay through dating Jamie, but most of all she is trying to disguise it from herself. Throughout the book she goes through her own inner struggle by trying to convince herself that her feelings for Simona does not mean that she is a lesbian, this is mainly prompted by fear of her mother and society's expectations. She's had enough of being a social outcast and is afraid that she might become an even bigger one. It's really sad, actually, she's making herself miserable just because she's afraid of what other people might think of her. (less)
Liya Lim The setting is somewhere in England, UK
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Average rating 3.75  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,243 ratings  ·  592 reviews


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Emily May
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“She watches the tears drip onto her skirt and spread like flowers and she knows this is the end of every future she’s ever imagined for herself.”

Do you like family dramas? Do you like those books that portray characters in such a way that they feel completely real and honest? Because this book won't be for everyone - certainly not those looking for something fast-paced and driven by melodrama - but I found it so beautiful. A sensitive family portrait wrapped up in secrets and misunderstandings.

“She watches the tears drip onto her skirt and spread like flowers and she knows this is the end of every future she’s ever imagined for herself.”

Do you like family dramas? Do you like those books that portray characters in such a way that they feel completely real and honest? Because this book won't be for everyone - certainly not those looking for something fast-paced and driven by melodrama - but I found it so beautiful. A sensitive family portrait wrapped up in secrets and misunderstandings.

Unbecoming shows three generations of women, each grappling with their own past and problems. The author goes into great detail about their lives, their flaws, and their mistakes, making them deserving of sympathy AND realistically imperfect human beings.

Mary is an elderly woman who suffers from Alzheimer's but still knows she is unwelcome in her daughter's home; through flashbacks, journals and letters, her youth is revealed, showing that all may not be as it seemed. Caroline is Mary's daughter, but she has never considered Mary her mother. She smothers her children with behaviour she believes is protective, whilst also keeping secrets about her own childhood. And then there's seventeen year-old Katie, a girl trying to come to terms with her sexuality.

I guess some people will find this kind of realistic storytelling slow, but I found it subtle, honest and all the more powerful because of it. It’s noticeably lacking in melodrama - the Alzheimer’s is portrayed accurately and sensitively, without being used as an excuse for emotional manipulation; Katie’s sexuality brings her uncertainty and worry, but it is not an angst machine.

And yet, the characters feel so incredibly real. I can't stress that enough. It's truly difficult to believe that they aren't out there, somewhere, living their lives. I think that's because I understood everyone’s reactions and felt like it was a true representation of exactly how someone would act in those circumstances.

The flashbacks to the past, unlike some novels, were exciting, enlightening and occasionally sad. I loved delving into Mary's youth and I thought the two different views of her - as a fiery, spirited young woman with ambitions and a "reputation", and also a no less fiery elderly woman with Alzheimer's - was its own subtle kind of sadness.

Often I think the saddest, most emotional kind of books are not those with dramatic scenes of death and heartbreak, but those with a quiet kind of honesty. The kind that show the everyday truths of life.

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Tatiana
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: starred reviews
Shelves: starred-2016, 4, 2016, ya
This story reminded me of Melina Marchetta's multi-generational family dramas. There are many family secrets and unresolved conflicts here, a lot of pain and misunderstanding. Luckily the narrative doesn't tip over into sappy melodrama, but stays sincere and gentle. Excellent portrayal of Alzheimer's too.
April (Aprilius Maximus)
JENNY JENNY JENNYYYYYYYYY
Aditi
“To care for those who once cared for us is one of the highest honors.”

----Tia Walker


Jenny Downham, a British novelist, pens an incredibly honest family drama surrounding three generations of women in her new young adult book, Unbecoming that narrates the story of a young teenager who had no idea that she had a grandmother, until the day when her grandmother comes to live with her and her mum, who it seems never ever talked about her, thus opening the floodgates to some painful memori
...more
Sarah
Jan 03, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: z2016, ebook, ya
This book was an average read for me. The story focuses on two women mainly - Katie, the teenager and Mary, her grandmother. I really wish we got more from Caroline, Katie's mother and Mary's daughter. Regardless, all three women were struggling with something in their life.

My main problem with this book was the fact that it was really mundane. Mundane stories can be great with the right writing but unfortunately the writing was just okay for me. Katie rattled on and on about how she was boring
...more
Stacey (prettybooks)
Last year, I saw a lot of readers describe Unbecoming as one of their favourite books of the year and I'm always curious about these books. I love stories about generations of women because my own family is quite young. I often hang out with my mother and grandmother, but what if I didn't grow up like that? And neither did my mother?

That's the case for 17-year-old Katie. Katie's always had a difficult relationship with her busy, fiercely organised and headstrong mother Caroline, but this inten
...more
Jessica (Jess Hearts Books)
Unbecoming is like nothing else I’ve read before in YA. It’s an ambitious book with huge literary merit that I can see appealing to people of all ages.

The book is about three generations of women in one family: Mary the grandmother, her daughter Caroline and Caroline’s daughter Katie. Teenager Katie is struggling with her sexuality after kissing her best friend and her whole school finding out about it, grandmother Mary is struggling with dementia that seems to be getting worse by th
...more
Lauren (Shakespeare & Whisky)
I buddy read this with Anna

This was surprisingly lovely. I had agreed to buddy read this novel on the basis of the cover and the suggestion that it seemed to have an historical fiction element so when moderators put the discussion thread in the contemporary romance category I had some misgivings.

Luckily I was committed to reading it because as soon as I cracked this book open I was pleased I had.

The novel traces three generations of a family and gradually reveals their deepest secrets and most
...more
Megan
This book hit me hard. Much harder than I expected. It's true that at first, until about 25% through, I couldn't really get into the book, I couldn't get into the story, and I didn't sympathise with the characters. It may have been because it was written in third person, but after about 25% through, I found it so easy to read.

This is a story about a woman (Mary), another woman (Caroline) and a girl (Katie). They are a family - three generations - and they all have their own secrets that they've
...more
Bec (Two Book Thieves)
I picked up Unbecoming not really knowing what to expect, thinking it'd just be a nice, easy read. I definitely didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did!

This book is about three generations of women - teenage Katie, her Mum, and her Grandmother. It delves into the complexity of family relationships, the mind of a teenage girl, and the pain that can come with being estranged from your parents. The issues that Katie and her family face can be both frustrating and heartbreaking, and in that way
...more
Susy Goldstone
This book started out pretty great; in the region of 5 stars kind of great. Then, gradually, my enjoyment dipped to what was turning into 4 stars. Then it peaked again! And then, throughout the remainder of the book, it trundled down until settling on 3 stars.

Mary's chapters are the best parts of Unbecoming. Whether the chapter details her life as a teenager in the 1950s, or shows how she sees the world through her dementia-clouded eyes in present day, it is enjoyable to read. Katie's chapters
...more
Marina
Mar 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Who loves dysfungtional family, Family conflict, LGBT, realistic fiction
** Books 74 - 2016 **

4 of 5 stars!

Hello my name is Katie! I was seventeen years old and lived with my mother, Caroline and my younger brother, Chris. We always lived look like so happy but actually it didn't. Suddenly, we've got news that my grandma, Mary is being hospitalized and doesn't know who she is. Iam really upset why my mom doesn't tell me anything about her. In the same time, i feel very exhausted since all of my friends stay away from me especially Esme, my bestfriend. I kno/>4
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Lynne
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm torn between giving this a 4 star review and a 2 star one.

The 4 star aspects:

MARY!!!! She was a brilliant character. I loved discovering her story as she remembered them. Her loss of memory was sad but so well described.

Her relationship with Katie was lovely.

2 star aspects:

Caroline - she should have played a far larger role earlier in the book to understand her deep rooted anger and get a better understanding of why she was the way she was. Her story of abandonment
...more
Dahlia
An interesting read, and definitely different. Felt a little like THE FIRST TIME SHE DROWNED meets THE FLYWHEEL meets...not sure what else. It's sorta hard for me to show this book the love it deserves, because like OCD LOVE STORY, it spends time a lot of time making it uncomfortable to be in someone's brain (in this case, the grandmother's), but this one plays on even bigger fears and sadness for me personally, but I do think it was really well crafted, and yay for more f/f YA always.
Sophie
Jul 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The stories of three generations of women made my heart ache.
Unbecoming is a slow story but it is worth it in the end.
AlexK_D1
May 09, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read Before I Die by Jenny Downham in 7th grade and this book fails to change my opinion on her books.
Amanda
Unbecoming is Jenny Downham's third novel. Set in the town of Bisham, we meet seventeen year old Katie, her mother Caroline, and her younger brother Chris. She's never met her maternal grandmother but Mary has come to live with them after her mother was called as the emergency contact. Mary has dementia but despite this Caroline does not want her to live with them. It's a subject that she chooses not to discuss, but she was abandoned by Mary at a young age and brought up by her aunt. Katie on the other ...more
Kirsty
This book is so good. I suspected it would be before I started it and just knew after the first page it was going to be as wonderful as I'd hoped.

Unbecoming is the story of Mary, Caroline and Katie and starts when Caroline and her daughter Katie are contacted by the hospital to collect Caroline's mother Mary. Caroline is not happy about this having not seen much of her mother over the years due to an incredibly rocky relationship with the woman her gave her up to be brought up by her aunt when
...more
Demi
Dec 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thinks this is my favourite Jenny Downham book so far. Read it in less than 24 hours. Every time I see a new book by her I don't bother reading what it's about cause I know I will love it and I do every single time
Ella Zegarra
JENNY DOWNHAM VUELVE, VUELVE *-*
Karen Barber
This was one of those frustrating books that I wanted to like more than I did.
We have three different women, all related, and see their stories.
Mary, a young unmarried mother in the 1950s was forced to give up her daughter. Caroline, the daughter, is now a mother herself-trying to come to terms with the anger she feels at being abandoned. Lastly, there is seventeen year old Katie who is undergoing her own major life experience.
All three women need to explore their feelings and exper
...more
Kathleen Wheeler
Jun 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the messy family dynamics of this story and the way dementia is portrayed with moments of clarity mixed with moments of confusion. That's the way it really is! Good read!
Paige (Illegal in 3 Countries)
See more of my reviews on The YA Kitten! My copy was a hardcover I got from the publisher as a reviewer for YA Books Central.
Diversity Rating: 2 – It’s a Start!
Racial-Ethnic:
0
QUILTBAG: 4 (Katie is a lesbian and her arc is written so, so well)
Disability: 3 (Katie’s little brother Chris has an unspecified developmental disability; Mary has Alzheimer’s)
Intersectionality: 1

Early on in my time as a book blogger, I read You Against Me and fell in love with it. The characters were vivid, the story engrossing and complicated, and I was genuinely amazed to lo/>/>/>/>Diversity
...more
Clare Snow
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Clare by: CBCAWA Book Group
My book group did this a year ago. It took me this long to finish, better late than never. How I love this sweeping saga.

Unbecoming and How Not To Disappear have eerily similar storylines: both set in England, the older woman had an illegitimate baby as a teenager, then became estranged from her family and took up acting. Did this not so respectable profession match the young woman's tarnished reputation? Or did it just suit an extrovert with no training.
"Every morning I wake up with such certainty, and ev/>
"Every/>
...more
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
Unbecoming is a family drama told through the eyes of three women - seventeen year old Katie, her mother Caroline and her grandmother Mary. Downham gets to the heart of several issues surrounding this trio of multi-generational women who are forever connected by blood but struggle to connect on a daily basis due to long-seated and still quite heated family issues.

Downham brings to light many complicated family issues - dealing with an ailing elderly parent suffering from a degenerative co
...more
Samantha
Mar 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I keep this photo as a cover photo on Facebook to remind myself that I'm as strong as I am because I come from a long line of women who have paved the way for me. My great grandma, my grandma, my mom, and her two sisters.
lady lineage

Katie's family isn't like mine. It's full of distance and resentment; secrets and unspoken turmoil.

I think the Goodreads synopsis does a disservice to this book. It seems simplistic, when these stories are anything but.

It's mostly told from Katie's perspective. She's a girl o
...more
Aimee
I received a copy of Unbecoming to review from Scholastic New Zealand.

I read another book recently about a family taking care of a family member with dementia. This was kind of similar but not in a bad way. I didn’t feel like I was reading the same story twice.

Katie’s mum really annoyed me through most of the book. I can kind of understand why she didn’t get along with Mary but that was no excuse to treat her the way she did. Mary
was clearly confused and in an unfamiliar place
...more
Carole
The title of this novel is clever. The behaviour of Katie's elderly grandmother Mary (who has dementia) is unbecoming, as it was when she was a young, unmarried mother in the 1950s. Mary's memory is 'unbecoming' as it slowly unravels. Katie's friends behaviour could also be described as unbecoming as they bully her and others who are different, and Katie herself acts in an unbecoming way by dating a lovely boy and leading him on for a bit while trying to come to terms with the fact that she prob ...more
Kirsti
Nov 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Definitely a stand out for the year, I felt like I had t savor this book, bit by bit. This was in part due to the writing, which I found both beautiful and haunting. It's also because of the story, and the slow unfurling pf what makes these people tick, and why they react with what they do. The slow reveal was worth everything in the end, and I'm sad to have finished with this characters.

I can see this book being labelled a 'coming of age story' but it kind of felt like more than tha
...more
else fine
Jan 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016, ya, womenwhokickass
Some things have changed so much in the world, but this hasn't: if you're born so that you just can't conform to what society expects of you, you're going to have to be really brave. Three generations of women come up against this truth in this well-crafted story, and all three learn that stepping out of the shadows to live their authentic lives is heartbreaking and hard and beautiful and necessary.

It's also a delicately handled look at the kinds of secrets passed down in families - all the int
...more
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Jenny Downham (born 1964) is a British novelist and an ex-actor. In her first book, Before I Die, the fictional account of the last few months of a sixteen-year-old girl who has been dying of leukemia for 4 years. The book is told in the first person. The book was acclaimed and was short-listed for the 2007 Guardian Award and the 2008 Lancashire Children's Book of the Year, nominated for the 2008 ...more
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“Simona: Truth doesn't exist?
Katie: ...because everyone's got their own side of a story
...If there's no real truth, then all we can do is offer up our own stories and listen to other people's and try and make sense of it all”
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“And in the space he left behind, in the loss of him, she felt an actual physical pain in her belly. She'd lost a friend and she didn't have many of those.” 2 likes
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