For What It's Worth

Thursday, August 30, 2018

review: finding yvonne by brandy colbert


36360431Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future. ~
Goodreads

Source: ARC received via ALA18

Review:
I had been wanting to give Colbert’s writing a try and picked up both her Stonewall Award winning book, Little & Lion (purchased) and an arc of Finding Yvonne at a signing while I was at ALA.

I’m so glad I did because this quiet little story packed a lot of emotional punch.

Yvonne has always been surrounded by people who knew their calling right away and are brilliant at it. Her dad is an a successful chef and restaurant owner, his sous chef, and Yvonne’s love interest, Warren, is an up and coming star in the food scene.

For Yvonne, the violin is her talent and escape but when she realizes that she’s not going to be the best – or even good enough to get into a conservatory – her hopes are shattered and confidence shaken.

Finding Yvonne does a wonderful job of showing how messy and confusing and SCARY it can be as a teenager – not quite an adult but no longer a child - when everyone around you seems to have it all together but your path suddenly changes.

To complicate matters, Yvonne’s mother abandoned her when she was a child. Her father loves her but is distant and unwilling to answer Yvonne’s questions about her mom. He provides the essentials but lacks in providing the affection and advice a teenage girl craves. She’s lonely and scared and seeks comfort and guidance in those who don’t judge her and give her the attention she craves.

Yvonne is quick to feel the sting of rejection and sometimes makes it bigger than it is, unwilling to see that some of her friends and mentors are opening the door to new possibilities, but that’s all part of her working things out. She stumbles, makes choices that complicate matters but it was all written so beautifully and realisticly.

Yvonne’s relationships with her father, Warren, best friend, Sabina, and an enigmatic musician she meets are complex and nuanced and often explore the intersections of race, class and expectations.

In particular, the relationship with her father cut me deep. I felt like Colbert had actually somehow been in my house when I was a teen recording conversations I had with my own father. My mother died from cancer when I was a teen and while I didn’t have the abandonment issues that Yvonne has, the relationship with her dad was so spot on it was difficult to read at times. It was strained, messy and awkward - both making mistakes but the love between them was still there.

This is a book that I wish I had when I was a teen. And a book that I apparently need as a 50-ish year old woman as well. It made me reflect on so many things that I saw one way as a teen but in hindsight - have more empathy for what my father was going through as well.

As the blurb says – there is an unexpected pregnancy. I wouldn’t call Finding Yvonne sex positive so much as sex realistic. Colbert shows all the joys and consequences of sex. All the choices and all the possible outcomes in a non-judgmental way not often explored in YA.

I’m going to discuss what may be considered a spoiler concerning the pregnancy and another issue below. Highlight if you’re interested.

SPOILER:
Many readers felt Yvonne cheated on Warren and I HATE cheating in books but let me explain why I didn’t have a problem with it here.

 For one, I don’t consider this a romance. This is a book about Yvonne. her coming of age, her choices, her potential and possibilities. While there are romantic interests in her life – and consequences – it’s not the main theme. Yvonne made her choices and had to live with them. The author did a wonderful job letting every character have their say about how it impacted them. < END SPOILER

If you’re looking for a YA romance (which I LOVE!!!) this is not it. This is a book about the complexities of growing up, becoming a responsible adult, about opening yourself up to new options, even f it’s scary, even if it isn’t what other people expect or want from you.

Highlight for content warnings: drug use, sexual situations, pregnancy, abortion

25 comments:

  1. I never read Little & Lion, but this one sounds really well done. I don't mind romance either, but I kind of like that that isn't the main focus here and it really is about Yvonne as a person growing and changing and coming into her own. I think we need more of those books. And it sounds like sex is handled well in the book, and the way you describe it, I think we do need more books like that in YA. Thanks for sharing!

    -Lauren
    www.shootingstarsmag.net

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    1. The romance(s) were handled so well and maturely - in a way that I rarely read in YA. It was so good.
      And I think the sex was done in a way that is far more realistic than what I usually see. Both the pros and cons of it.

      I have Little & Lion and I'm looking forward to reading it!

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  2. Hmmm this is the first I've heard of this one, but I don't think I'd enjoy the pregnancy storyline at all. Showing a character actually having sex and then having to deal with one of the worst outcomes (for a teenager) doesn't sound sex positive at all, but more like trying to caution readers from having sex.

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    1. It really wasn't like that at all. I felt like it showed teen sex in a realistic way. Both positive and negative and did a great job of showing options and not shaming Yvonne for her choices.
      Most teen pregnancy stories I read feel heavy handed in one way or another and those one didn't. Imo anyway.

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  3. I had to read the spoiler, I can not stay away

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    1. I'm the same lol But it was only spoiler-ish. I didn't say what happened.

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  4. The synopsis snagged my attention at street musician and then made me do a double take at her becoming pregnant. I was not expecting that to just pop up at the end! My interest is doubly piqued.

    I read the spoiler even though I haven't read the book (this is actually the first time I've ever seen it), and I think it's great the author shows how someone's actions impacted people differently. I think that's great. I also think it's awesome that the author made her feel realistic in almost every way. Teenagers have strained relationships with their parents, they often have sex, and sometimes those things have unforeseen consequences. I really want to read this one now! I think her journey will be impactful.

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear?

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    1. I'm also sorry about your mom -- that had to be really difficult.

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    2. It was really complicated with her dad and he wasn't always great to her but he's not evil or awful either. Just trying to make it in his own way too. Although he did get high and that bothered me.

      And {{hugs}}

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  5. I think the part I am most intrigued by is the whole violin thing. Yvonne dedicate a huge amount of her life, just to find out that her goals are not within reach. That would cause anyone to spin out, and I am curious to see how it all works out.

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    1. It was so interesting! In most books the kids are prodigies but she's not. No matter how hard she works for it, While everyone around her seems to fall right into their goals. I'm sure that happens a lot and it's nice to see someone address it.

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  6. I love it when books can capture that sense of being a teenager, because I think sometimes we forget what it was like, having not lived it for a while- and a book that can recapture is a rare treasure, at least in my experience. And even more powerful when they hit close to home, or make a connection to something in our own lives. Glad this was a special book for you, and thanks for sharing. Very nice, heartfelt review.

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    1. I wasn't a huge reader when I was younger, so maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember books being so open about these subjects. And it's great to see your own struggles reflected in characters so it can hep you work through them yourself.

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  7. This is a new one to me but I really like the sound of it. I love when relationships delve deeper than just the surface level and feel so realistic. It sounds like Colbert managed to do that - and do it well. And it seems like this had quite an impact on a personal level as well. The author obviously captured an emotional experience and portrayed it well. Excellent review, Karen!

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    1. It was one of the more a realistic YA books I've read. Even if that means Yvonne screws up a lot lol

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  8. Aww my little heart. The Stonewall is coordinated by my office. I bought Little and Lion but still haven't read it. I love a story with complex characters. I'll have to give this one a try!

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    1. I have Little & Lion too. i loved her writing so now I'm looking forward to trying that one too.

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  9. Oooof... this sounds like an incredible read and I’m glad that it doesn’t hold back from touching on sensitive subjects. Thanks for this awesome and I’m-depth review; and I’m glad it helped you to deal with some things you may never have considered regarding your own relationship with your dad. Isn’t it interesting when books come into our lives at a time we need to read them? Xoxo

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    1. I think as a teen, we sometime only see what we're dealing with and of course it's all *end of the world* stuff lol so we don't view our parents as people with their own set of fears and problems.

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  10. That sounds like a really good book.

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    1. I really enjoyed it Mary. I was kind of surprised by how much.

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  11. I admit, I have seen this one about and it hadn't really interested me. It looks like it's a really good read which shows the reality of growing up and figuring things out. It's messy and things don't always go right. Folks make bad decisions and this is a definitely a book where the MC makes some decisions and has to figure life out and I like that.

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    1. I had wanted her first book and this one happened to come with it at the signing but I'm glad I picked it up. It's rare that an author is so careful with a subject matter like this yet shows all the possibilities.

      i can see why some readers were irritated with Yvonne or some of her choices but it felt real.

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  12. Wow, sounds like a really good story Karen. I'll sure to keep this one in mind :)

    xx
    Vanessa @ Blushing Geek

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    1. It was a good one!

      Nice to see you back too Vanessa :-)

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