Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Review: Between Mom and Jo

Julie Anne Peters' Between Mom and Jo is a serious novel about what happens when a never-married couple breaks up after a long term relationship and after having a son.

The story is told from the son's point of view and you feel for this kid (Nick) who has to struggle with losing a parent, the selfish, but well-meaning, control of his birth mother, and the introduction of a "new parent" all at the same time. And, there's a hitch: Nick's parents are a same-sex couple.

Nick has already suffered discrimination at school, in the neighborhood, and with his otherwise kindly grandparents because of his two moms and is just feeling relatively stable and safe when his biological mother, Erin, is diagnosed with breast cancer. This sends everything into a tailspin. His other mom, Jo, begins drinking even more. A new friend, Kerri, becomes everpresent in the home.

When Erin kicks Jo out and sets up house with Kerri, Nick is steamed. More than steamed. He feels lost, betrayed, alone. While Erin is his biological parent, Jo is, as Nick puts it, his "real mom." He wants to live with Jo, while Erin is determined to keep him. Nick acts out in a number of ways and his frustration is palpable.

Between Mom and Jo is what I like to call high Young Adult--in other words, it deals with mature themes and controversial issues (drinking, same sex marriages, swearing), so it isn't for the very young. But, Between Mom and Jo is an extremely compelling novel. Nick is a wonderfully attractive narrator--you feel for him in his frustration and completely understand him even when he's badly behaved. What the adults have done to him, often out of good intentions, has been destructive and hurtful and, most of all, unfair.

While Young Adult fiction is not my favorite genre, Between Mom and Jo held me from the very beginning. Highly recommended for the thirteen-and-over crowd.

Leila reviewed this title at Bookshelves of Doom recently as well.