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On Sale: May 08, 2012
Pages: 240 | ISBN: 978-0-375-98571-3
Published by : Delacorte Books for Young Readers RH Childrens Books
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ABOUT THE BOOK ABOUT THE BOOK
ABOUT THE AUTHOR ABOUT THE AUTHOR
PRAISE & AWARDS PRAISE & AWARDS
EVENTS EVENTS
Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

I'm Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn't want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee's parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of "The Unbearable Book Club," CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren't friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I'll turn in when I go back to school.

Excerpt

“The Yellow Wallpaper”

1. SETTING: The place where the author puts the characters. It’s like setting a table, except that instead of using plates and silverware, you’re using people.

On our first day of membership in what CeeCee would later call the Unbearable Book Club, I was sitting in a plastic lounge chair at the West New Hope, Delaware, community pool, reading a dog-eared copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” According to the thermometer on the lifeguard stand, it was ninety-seven degrees. My hands were sweating so much they left stains on the pages.

CeeCee paused by the empty recliner next to mine. She was wearing a white crocheted bikini and dark sunglasses, and I saw a copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper” sticking out of her polka-dot bag. CeeCee’s thighs didn’t touch at the top, I noticed. We weren’t friends.

“Don’t you think we’re too old for this?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure she was talking to me: I wasn’t the sort of person CeeCee Christiansen usually talked to. The two of us chatting? It was like a dolphin hanging out with a squirrel. “It wasn’t my idea,” I said as a river of sweat worked its way down my spine. “I think our mothers set it up. They were in a yoga class together.”

CeeCee didn’t glance in my direction. She unponytailed her long blond hair and let it fall toward the ground like a satin curtain. “Believe me,” she said. “It wasn’t my mother’s idea. She doesn’t have the imagination.”

“Good to know.” I wiped my hands on my towel.

Twenty feet from the edges of our chairs, across a stretch of cement too hot to stand on, the pool flashed and glittered, a turquoise rectangle full of multicolored bodies leaping in and out of the water like flying fish.

CeeCee was staring at one of the lifeguards, who was staring back at her and twirling his whistle around his finger on a string: three twirls to the right, three to the left. She had apparently finished talking to me, so I picked up my book.

“You’re actually reading it.” She sat down and took the cap off a bottle of sunblock. When I turned toward her she smiled a closed-lipped smile, making me think of an alligator sunning itself on a riverbank.

“That’s the assignment,” I said. “We have to read ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and four other books.”

“And learn a list of literary terms and write an essay,” CeeCee said. “This teacher’s insane. No one else assigns that kind of homework during the summer. I don’t care if it is AP.”

I squeegeed the sweat from my eyebrows with an index finger. I didn’t mind doing the reading--whatever I read would be more interesting than my day-to-day life--but I wasn’t looking forward to the essay. Most of the papers I wrote for school came back with suggestions in the margins about how my ideas could be organized. “I can’t find an argument here,” my tenth-grade history teacher had said.

“So you’re not going to read the books?” I asked CeeCee. I didn’t know Ms. Radcliffe yet, but she had a reputation for being stern and precise. I imagined her snapping a steel-edged ruler on my desk.

“It doesn’t matter if you read them.” CeeCee squirted a white ribbon of lotion onto her stomach. “Most of the books we read for school are crap. I usually just read the summary online, or I read the first couple of pages and then skip to the end.” She glanced at my copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” “You’re planning to read the whole thing?”

“I think that’s the point of a book,” I said. “You start at the beginning and you read to the end.” I hadn’t learned how to read until the middle of first grade, and I still felt grateful to my teacher, Ms. Hampl, who had knelt by my desk one afternoon and smoothed her finger across the parallel rows of two-dimensional black marks in my book--and as if she had opened a hidden door, I felt the patterned surface break and give way, and the words let me in. I still loved opening a book and feeling like I was physically entering the page, the ordinary world fizzing and blurring around the edges until it disappeared.

“You don’t have to take Advanced Placement,” I pointed out.

“Right. Only the helpless take regular English.” CeeCee squeezed some lotion onto her arms, which were thin and hairless. “AP classes have two kinds of kids in them: the kids who are smart, and the kids who don’t want to spend the year in a room full of losers. Do you have a four-oh?”

“A four-oh grade average? No.” I wasn’t sure what my average was. Teachers often referred to me as a student with “a lot of potential.” This meant they expected me to be smart; but in fact my mind was often packing a mental suitcase and wandering off on its own. I sometimes pictured all the things I had learned during the previous week at school jumping into brightly painted railroad cars and disappearing into the distance on a speeding train.

CeeCee scanned the perimeter of the pool, presumably for more-worthwhile people to talk to. The pickings were slim. “So what’s your deal?” she asked. “I don’t really know you. Who are you supposed to be?”

Who was I supposed to be? I was Adrienne Haus. I was fifteen. I lived in West New Hope with my mother, who had signed me up for a summer book club. Now I was reading--or trying to read--a book at the pool.
Julie Schumacher

About Julie Schumacher

Julie Schumacher - The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

Photo © Tim Fransisco Photography

I was born and raised in Delaware, a place many people remember driving through on their way from Washington to New York. A few facts about Delaware: it was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution; at its narrowest point, it is approximately nine miles across; and its official state macroinvertebrate (huh?) is the stonefly.

I wasn’t a very good reader when I was younger (my sister likes to remind me of the day when I came home from elementary school and said, “Hey, look! I got my report card and I only got three Ds!”), but I have always written things down. I started by keeping a diary in fifth grade. Then I moved on to writing poetry. I had a series of pets that kept dying–turtles, rabbits, fish–and I wrote sad rhymes about them when we buried them in the backyard.

In high school and college, I started writing fiction when I discovered that most of my poems were like tiny unsatisfying stories. At Oberlin College, I took a class in which the professor asked everyone to write a “family tale.” I wrote a story that exaggerated a few curious and amusing details about my parents, and I turned it in. The professor suggested that I send it to a literary contest, which I did, and the story went on to be reprinted in The Best American Short Stories. By this time, I had graduated from college and was working as a secretary, and when the publication finally caught up with me I thought, I have to quit my job.

I did quit. I went to graduate school at Cornell to get an MFA degree in fiction. An MFA is what some people might call a useless degree. It doesn’t get you a job as a business person and it doesn’t make you a scholar. What does it do? It buys you encouragement and time. It helps you to believe that it might be possible to dedicate a significant portion of your life to forming sentences on a page. It motivates you to believe that spending a significant portion of your life forming sentences might be a good way to live. It’s easy to sneer at an MFA. Sneering is easy. Writing good sentences is not.

At present I’m writing books for adult as well as younger readers, and I have found that there is not as great a difference between the two as most people might think. There is a greater directness and a stronger sense of story in books for younger readers. But children’s literature is not necessarily simpler. As C. S. Lewis said, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story.”

My books for younger readers include The Book of One Hundred Truths, The Chain Letter, and Grass Angel, a PEN Center USA Literary Award Finalist for Children’s Literature. I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, and am the director of the Creative Writing Program and a professor of English at the University of Minnesota.
Praise | Awards

Praise

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2012:
“The characters, especially the four girls, sparkle…. Smart and insightful.”

VOYA, April 2012:
"Required summer reading never seemed so exciting before."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2012:

"Schumacher, author of the compelling Black Box, deftly allows elements of The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening to infuse Adrienne’s thinking as she immerses herself in them and as her own story unfurls alongside them. The result is a story that explores the way books can and can’t inform lives, as Adrienne’s summer leads to some surprising, even tragic events; that makes this a natural for book-club discussion by reluctant and eager attendants alike."




From the Hardcover edition.

Awards

WINNER 2013 Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
NOMINEE Young Adult Services Division, School Library Journal Author Award
Julie Schumacher

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Julie Schumacher - The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

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