April 11, 2011

A material girl finds a new perspective

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Learning that what you are is not based on what you have is a bold lesson for anyone to learn. But it’s particularly poignant for 13-year-old Irene, whose life in a posh Manhattan penthouse comes crashing down around her when her investment banker father loses his job.

As she watches her world collapse—her father can’t find work, her socialite mother won’t give up her extravagant ways—Irene wonders what will become of them all. With their belongings either stored or sold, Irene’s family drives a rented car out of the city to rural upstate New York to live with Irene’s grandfather on his farm.

Life as she once knew it is gone, but much to her surprise, Irene learns a lot about herself during this exiled summer, thanks to the new neighbors she meets and through the simple encounters of a slower, easier lifestyle.

Possessions no longer matter as much as friends. Family sticks together through good times and bad. And maybe the person Irene thought she was, was just a mirage seen through a gilded mirror.

Award-winning author Corinne Demas is careful not to stereotype Irene as a spoiled teen, full of angst and disrespect. That would be too easy. Instead, the author’s honest depiction of Irene, through authentic dialogue and voice, rings true—making readers honestly like her.

The bright and amiable teenager triumphs over her family’s tragedy, stands up for herself against the odds and, eventually, finds out exactly who she is. Losing it all and finding a new perspective is a topic addressed in many tween and YA novels. But Demas manages to avoid the clichés and create a solid storyline with a realistically drawn protagonist that tween readers will embrace.

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