Unexpected Development

“Bongos, boobs, cantaloupes, chi-chis, grapefruits, headlights, high beams, Himalayas, honkers, hooters, jugs, marangas, melons, mountains, ta-tas, taters, tits, tomatoes, watermelons, and yams.”

— Megan in Unexpected Development

Unexpected Development by Marlene Perez (Roaring Brook, 2004). What did Megan do over her summer vacation, Mrs. Westland? Sex. That’s what she relates in her answering essay. But that’s not all. Megan also works at a pancake house, fends off sexual harassment, contemplates breast reduction surgery, and finds herself overwhelmed when a crush turns into a real boyfriend with everything that implies. With its emphasis on body language and virginity lost, this debut novel has an engaging voice and an Are-You-There-God-It’s-Me-Margaret-meets-Forever quality sure to win readers. Highly recommended. Ages 12-up.

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Having been somewhat bountiful myself from fifth grade on, I appreciated that Perez didn’t boil the plot line into one neatly containable issue from mass digestion.

In youth lit, too often when we’re exploring a perspective not shared by all, the tendency is to exclusively zero in on one facet for reader translation.

The upside, I suppose, is that it’s easier to digest. The downside is that it’s so lacking in real-life complexity as to be misleading.

Sexuality, sexual harassment, and body image issues are inseparable, and Perez does a deft job of showing that sometimes uncomfortable relationship.

Other pluses: the cover (which the accompanying letter notes was “too bold” for the tastes of a major chain store); the Midwestern setting (can’t begin to say how many people ask me why all books are set on the coasts!); the likelihood to encourage conversation; a first-time author to cheer for!

From the author’s Web site, I see that the book (to be released in September) is already an ALA Quick Pick nominee and featured in:

Capital T Spells Trouble: Ten “Dangerous” Books and Why Teens Need Them by Cathy Belben from the Smart Writers Journal.