Book Review: My Life as a Rhombus

My mouth dropped open, and suddenly, I knew.  Unfortunately for Sarah, everything now made sense.

I checked out My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson two other times from the library before actually reading it this go around. Third time is the charm? I don’t know why I held off on reading it for so long; it’s about teen pregnancy, one of my favorite topics to read about, second only to female friendship.  Bonus!  This book has both of those things.

What I Liked

– As mentioned, I am supremely interested in portrayals of teen pregnancy and parenthood, and this book delivered by presenting more than one point of view on the subject.

– I love the main character, Rhonda.  I also enjoyed her friendship with Sarah.  It felt very genuine and logical that these two would become friends.

– The tension between Rhonda and her father is also very well-handled.  I could imagine the distance between them. Rhonda’s loneliness at home is portrayed nicely.

– Rhonda’s fear of dating also worked. She closes herself off pretty effectively and chooses to surround herself with people equally closed off (Gail) or awkward (Xavier).

– The characters are all imperfect, which is nice.  Even the love interest, David.  He’s kind of cheesy, but his personality flaws are evident and on the surface.  At first he plays a little too good to be true, but it’s quickly remedied.

– It’s always nice to have a female character who enjoys math.

– The book is super engaging.  I read it in two days because I had to see how everything would shake out.

– This is on the book jacket, but I really do appreciate that the book is not preachy and doesn’t really advocate or condemn teen parenthood.  It’s just a story about some girls who have gotten pregnant and how they feel about/handle it.

What I Didn’t Like

– One of the most important resolutions (between Rhonda and her father) happens offscreen.  I felt completely cheated by this.  Yeah, the romance aspect is nice, but since the biggest issue is really her connection to her father, it would’ve been nice to see that resolved ON THE PAGE, not just hinted at.

– Sarah and David are very affectionate for siblings so close in age.  It didn’t ring true to me.  Of course, I’m an only child so your mileage may very.  Relatedly, Rhonda kisses Sarah on the forehead once, which I have never, ever done with my very best friends that I have known since childhood.  A hug, yes.  An arm around the shoulder, okay.  But a kiss on the forehead to comfort?  Uh, never.  It does tie into Rhonda’s relationship with her father, but…no.

– Oh, the melodrama.  I am a big fan of melodrama!  When I watch One Tree Hill, for example.  And melodrama happens in real life, but all of the melodrama here felt very over the top.  Probably because of…

– A lack of character development.  I know Christopher is Rhonda’s ex, but surely she must have liked SOMETHING about him besides the fact that he paid attention to her.  I mean, yes, that’s reason enough when you’re fifteen (or twenty or thirty or…), but there must have been something else about him besides his hot bod that she liked.  He trusted her enough to talk about his father with her, so there must have been something there.

– Which also leads me to the bad sex portion of the book.  She didn’t like having sex with him AT ALL?  Not once?  REALLY?  Not even making out with him?  Okay.

I do recognize that this may have been a specific narrative choice because Rhonda’s break up experience is so bad that she has rewritten the whole relationship as Not Good, but come on.

– This is probably weird to say about a book on teenage pregnancy, but:  NEEDS MORE SEXY FUN TIMES.  Hot boys and girls populate the book, and there is a serious deficit of making out and sexy fun times!  How did these kids get pregnant?  Hand holding?  I mean, it makes sense for the narrative, but at the end, I was just like, “Man, they could’ve made out A LOT MORE.”

Women Unbound?

This book is chock full of discussions of choice when it comes to pregnancy.

In conclusion:  The theme of the book seems to be:  TUTORING = PREGNANCY.  Which, hey, One Tree Hill taught me the same thing!  So it must be true.

I know it seems like I was hard on the book, but I really did enjoy it.  The girls were great, the conversations about pregnancy were ace, the female friendship was A+, and I was completely into the story.  There were just some sticking points is all.  I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

POC Challenge:  7/15; YA Reading Challenge:  11/75

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10 comments

  1. Pingback: Black North American Authors « Diversify Your Reading
  2. Ari

    I loved this book. (I’m not linking to my review because it was the first review I ever did and it’s written poorly. I intend on re-reading/reviewing it and I may agree more with you on some points when I re-read it).

    I like the format of your reviews. Very straightforward.

    I do agree with you in that the making up of father and duaghter should have been described more. However, I do think it’s completely plausible that Rhonda hated having sex with Christopher. After all, not all sex is great. But maybe she did like making out with him (I don’t really remember so I could totally be wrong about the making out thing). I don’t recall either why Christopher trusted her enough to tell about his father but I agree that does show that there must have been something more to their relationship than his good looks. I do think that for when a girl whose been ignored for so long finally gets paid attention, she will be attracted to that person if he’s hot and at first ignore his flaws.

    Great review!

    Like

    • Akilah

      No, not all sex is great. And since he was her first and a selfish 15-year-old, it’s entirely plausible that the sex actually sucked. But it’s just a trend in YA that teen sex is not enjoyable sex, and while it happens that way sometimes, I don’t think it’s as often as the authors would make us believe. I think it could’ve been contextualized a little more is all instead of one of those dual punishments of “of course she hates sex AND she got pregnant; teenage sex = don’t do it!”. I’m simplifying, but I think you know what I mean. Also, I think Sarah and her baby’s father were a direct contrast because they obviously cared about each other a lot.

      I also totally agree about his attention being enough, but, again, it’s one of those things. It makes sense for the narrative. I have a hard time remembering that I liked the guys I was in bad relationships with, but, for a novel, I think it would’ve been nice to see that he was more than just an arrogant jock who has a mean dad. His dad was his one sympathizing trait, and that’s not enough for me. I just wanted a little more there.

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      • Ari

        Sorry, just saw this.

        You make a good point, too often bad sex ends up in pregnancy (in books) and that’s definitely not always true. For a totally different perspective, try Varian’s other book, Saving Maddie.

        Sarah and the baby’s father (adam?) were adorable. Daniel reacted in a way that annoyed me, but I don’t have an older brother so maybe that’s why.
        .-= Ari´s last blog ..Male Monday: Year of the Horse =-.

        Like

        • Akilah

          Yeah, Sarah and her baby's dad were ace. I wish we had seen more of them as a couple-couple.

          The brother was annoying in lots of ways, but I don't have an older brother either.

          Like

  3. susan

    Akilah,

    Oh, I’m so glad to know I’m not alone. I felt the same way about Rhonda’s relationship with her dad. That really nagged at me.

    I enjoyed the book, too. I’m looking forward to Saving Maddie.

    I’m so glad to see your review here. Thanks.

    Like

    • Akilah

      The dad was treated as an after thought, and I thought the main point of the novel (aside from Rhonda’s relationship with Sarah) was Rhonda making peace (or not!) with her dad, and I thought they deserved a real scene. It would be a lot harder to write than the boyfriend scene for sure, but I was really expecting something there other than a footnote. Boo.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Top Ten YA Books about Middle Class Black Teens | The Englishist

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