Katia Raina

The Magic Mirror

“Inconvenient,” by Margie Gelbwasser

Flux, 2010

This isn’t, strictly speaking, historical fiction, though at times it does have that late 1980s, early 90s feel (when it mentions the James Bond movies, the ones with the sexy Russian chicks being viewed in a high school classroom. Also, the protagonist’s parents — and her boyfriend — are old-fashioned, so you won’t see any Ipods in this story, nor social networking sites). Anyway, contemporary or not, I cannot possibly keep quiet about this one.

First of all, this book is personal to me is that it features a Russian-Jewish girl living in a New Jersey suburb, trying to step outside of the shadow of her culture and create for herself a meaningful American life.

But that is only one of the story’s many layers. There’s also the romance with a hot cross-country teammate. There is a best friend who is growing up just a little too fast — and drifting away. There  is an alcoholic freelance writer mother with a gentle heart but not much willpower.

Though the beginning few chapters were a tad too slow for me, once I truly got into the book, boy did I get into it. First, let me just say, the characters seem so real. The main character, Alyssa, is kind, complex and wise, as unsure of herself as any teen, yet at times, instinctively understanding some of the truths many other teenagers are still struggling to learn. The fun mother who turns mean when fueled by alcohol does not come across as a stereotypical alcoholic — she is defeated, sweet, selfish, multi-dimensional. The main character’s boyfriend is afraid of commitment, and kinda-sorta lets another girl in a little too close, yet he is no shallow only-wants-one-thing jerk. The protagonist’s best friend made me laugh out loud at times, the way she so desperately pushed away her Russian-ness, and yet how so very “Russian” she was, even in doing that.

Speaking of Russain-ness, I thought the details of being a Russian-Jewish teen in America were spot-on! I was sixteen living in NYC and then at seventeen and eighteen my parents moved me to Central New Jersey, and yes, I saw many of the things that Margie Gelbwasser describes.

Finally, I loved the ending for the same reason I loved the characters — for its truth. I couldn’t stop thinking about the story long after reluctantly turning the last page.

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May 10, 2011 - Posted by | Book Impressions | , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. This is on my TBR list. I read a sample and liked it. There was a modern, yet timeless quality to it. I’d like to read the full novel soon.

    Comment by Medeia Sharif | May 11, 2011 | Reply

    • It’s an incredibly quick read, Medeia. Oh, and I have contacted Margie, and she agreed to try and meet with me for an interview sometime in June! Yay!!

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 12, 2011 | Reply

  2. Looks like something I want to read! Thanks.

    Comment by Joyce Hostetter | May 24, 2011 | Reply

    • Oh yes you do! Let me know what you think! 🙂

      Comment by Katia Raina | May 24, 2011 | Reply


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