Thursday, January 22, 2015


Title:  Unbecoming
Author:  Rebecca Scherm
Publication Information:  Viking Adult. 2015. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0525427503 / 978-0525427506

Book Source: I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Opening Sentence:  "The first lie Grace had told Hanna was her name."

Favorite Quote:  "How could she explain lying to someone who didn't know it already, through and through, deep in her bones? Lies charged compound interest. You tried to fix what you had broken before you were found out, making little payments as you could afford to, just enough to keep the whole weight of it at bay. But the lie kept growing and growing. You could never pay it off, not without losing everything. The cost was total."

Unbecoming is an adjective that means unseemly or inappropriate. To "un-become" is not a real word, the pieces of it can be inferred to mean "to begin to not be." In this book, both interpretations can be applied.

Grace, also known as Julie, is young American woman living in Paris. In the United States, she was Grace from the small town of Garland, Tennessee. In Paris, she is Julie from California. A new place, a new persona.

Grace from Garland grows up in a household, feeling overshadowed by her much younger twin brothers and feeling starved for her parents' love, whose attention seemed completely focused on the twins. At age twelve, she meets Riley Graham and, almost more importantly, Riley's family. Riley is from a rich, privileged family with a mother who seems to be everything Grace doesn't have. Grace and Riley grow together, and Grace gradually remakes herself and becomes someone who seems to be part of the Graham family - the daughter Mrs. Graham never had.

Julie in Paris has broken ties to the past. She works in a small store that restores antiques. She walked away from her family, the Grahams, Riley, and Garland. However, she holds on to news from home, closely following the local paper online.

The book begins with the fact that Riley and Alls are being paroled, and Grace aka Julie feels that her past will find its way into her present. Does she want it to or not? And what happened in the past that left Riley and their friend Alls in jail and Grace aka Julie in Paris unable to go home?

The book is essentially a character study of Grace aka Julie. The book builds on Grace's anticipation of the boys'  release from prison and fills in the back story of what led to this point. It starts of rather slow giving the background of what perhaps makes Grace behave the way she does. That aspect of the story is undeveloped in that we have only her viewpoint of her parents' marriage and the arrival of younger twin siblings. Her family are never truly characters in the book; the key becomes that Grace seems completely unsupervised from a very young age. "She hadn't realized she was lonely until she began to understand that other people were not."

Yet, mentions of her mother are made even from the beginning of the book. So, it's unclear how much of the neglect is real and how much is her perception. Regardless, complete attribution of Grace's character to her childhood seems a bit of a stretch. Nature vs. nurture - unclear where the line lies in this book.

The story of Garland becomes the story of unsupervised children, adults and parents who seems to be missing in action as far as control and supervision is concerned, young - very very young - "love" and a robbery. The story becomes one of a person looking out only for themselves and of the betrayals that leads to. It is the story of an unbecoming child who grows into an unbecoming adult. It is the story of one person un-becoming who they are and becoming a new persona as the situation demands. I alternate between feeling sorry for the child Grace was and disliking her choices and her treatment of people. "The way you are in love is the way you are in all things ... And the way you are in all things is the way you are in love."

On a side note, I would not go by the marketing for the book. The book description reads "psychological suspense about a daring art heist, a cat-and-mouse waiting game;" the book is actually less suspense and more psychological case study. The book marketing also compares this book to those of authors Gillian Flynn and Donna Tartt. Unfortunately, those comparisons are rather unbecoming to this book. They set up an expectation that this book would be better off without.

Did I end up liking Grace aka Julie? As a person, no. As a character, she is an interesting study. Did I like the book? Yes, but only up to a point because of a slow start and an ending I did not care for.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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