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14 October 2005  A BRIEF CHAPTER IN MY IMPOSSIBLE LIFE by Dana Reinhardt, Random House/Wendy Lamb, February 2006, ISBN: 0-385-74698-9; LIB. ISBN: 0-385-90940-3


"So my free period found me in the gym leafing through pamphlets and scarfing down bite-sized Charleston Chews looking for some clubs to join because Mr. McAdams told me that if I don't 'diversify my resume' I won't get into a good college. The obvious choice for me would be to join the math club, but I don't even need to go into the reasons this will never happen, do I? I wandered around for almost forty-five minutes and was no closer to joining a club than I was when I arrived, although I did consume a staggering amount of bite-sized candy. It's not like I don't have interests. I like to write. I read a lot. I know almost everything there is to know about movies. I make my own T-shirts. I've always been fascinated by penguins, yet there doesn't seem to be a penguin club offering free Tootsie Pops. I guess there just isn't anything that defines me enough that I feel the need to make it official. It's like getting a tattoo. They're cool and I'd love to get one,once I come to terms with the fact that my parents would throw me out of the house, but I just can't come up with a symbol or a word or an image that says enough about who I am that I can live with it forever."


I don't know about anybody else, but when I'm trying to read a couple of hundred books a year I have to accept that there isn't time to be sucked into viewing weekly installments of various current television shows. So I don't really pay attention to what's on, and haven't the faintest idea as to what is worth watching these days. But a decade ago I was totally hooked on the program that I expect remains the best and smartest show for adolescents to ever have graced the small screen.


In fact, a couple of years back Shari and I had big plans to utilize the script from an episode of that exceptional but short-lived show, My So-Called Life, as a vehicle for Shari's Drama III students. (At least that was our plan until the District's [thankfully] former Superintendent apparently decided that a middle school presentation with the theme of "Questioning Authority" and a plot involving active and passionate student opposition to administration censorship struck too close to his right-wing sensibilities and so we received a directive that work on the play cease immediately.)


One aspect of My So-Called Life that I consistently enjoyed was the Angela Chase internal monologues that were always insightful, entertaining, and spot on credible in terms of portraying the thoughts of a teenager. I was frequently reminded of that feeling in reading A BRIEF CHAPTER IN MY IMPOSSIBLE LIFE, one of the smartest contemporary YAs I've encountered in a while.


"It was Halloween last night. Halloween is my favorite holiday of all time. It always has been, and not just because I'm a big fan of candy, especially in bite-size form. I think Halloween brings out the very best in humanity. We open our homes and give without expecting anything in return. It's really pretty amazing when you think about it. What other night do you talk to your neighbors and your neighbors' neighbors and other people's neighbors who just drove to your neighborhood because it seemed like a nice plae to knock in the doors of complete strangers? What other night do you not mind when your doorbell rings in the middle of dinner again and again and again? On most holidays we turn inward. We gather in our homes, we light fires, we spend time with our loved ones. But Halloween sends us out into the streets, into the cold, with people we don't know, running from stranger's house to stranger's house. And in wacky costumes!"


She might not have the cleavage or the boy-related experiences of her lifelong friend Cleo, but high school student Simone Turner-Bloom is a bright young woman who has the love of the parents and younger brother who all look so different than she.


"It's not like I haven't spent hours or days or weeks or even years thinking about the fact that I'm adopted. My parents never try to hide it from me. Early on I understood that my straight dark hair, olive skin, lanky build, and left-handedness--all the things that make me different from my family, good and bad--come from my own mysterious genetic pool. A pool seems too small when you think about it. It really must be more like a sea or an ocean with an endless horizon. All that past--all the events that happened or didn't happen, all the weddings, births, deaths, secrets, triumphs, fighting and then making up or maybe not making up and then moving as far away as possible to get a new start--make us who we are. But I don't know any of these stories from my own oceanic past. I know only that all those events somehow dropped a baby at the feet of an idealistic young couple named Elsie Turner and Vince Bloom on an unseasonably snowy April day. And there I began my life as Simone Turner-Bloom.

"I've thought about this a lot, as you can see, but you might be surprised to know that I've never wanted to learn anything about my real family tree. In my mind I've cut down those branches and left a bare, solitary trunk. I know no details. Except for one, Her name: Rivka."

But now Rivka has requested that Simone get in touch with her.


The brilliant and beautiful A BRIEF CHAPTER IN MY IMPOSSIBLE LIFE explores the circumstances by which Simone came to be adopted and reveals the effects on all those involved when the young woman gets in contact with and begins to know the birth mother who suddenly falls into her life after all these years. It is through that new knowledge of her previously-unknown oceanic past that Simone is forever transformed.


" 'I love Almond Joys,' I say. And there we have it. The first notable difference between us. 'I could take or leave the Peppermint Patties.' "


A sweet debut for newbie LA author Dana Reinhardt, A BRIEF CHAPTER IN MY IMPOSSIBLE LIFE will be an early highlight of the spring YA season.


Richie Partington



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