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My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson
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My Life as a Rhombus

by Varian Johnson

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I have a strange appreciation for YA issue novels...if it deals with pregnancy, suicide, violence, eating disorders, etc., I'll probably want to read it. I've had my eye on this book for a while but I ended up spontaneously downloading it last week to kill some downtime. It ended up being a fast, enjoyable, and well-written novel about teen pregnancy that managed to avoid preachiness and melodramatic cliches.

The main character, Rhonda, is an academically-driven senior at a prestigious prep school who we learn had an abortion a year and a half ago. During her tutoring job after school, she's placed with another high school student - an extremely popular girl named Sarah who is also pregnant and struggling with the same issues as Rhonda. Rhonda decides to confide in Sarah about her own past, which brings the girls closer together but also forces Rhonda to re-evaluate the decisions she made a year and a half ago.

The best word that I can use to describe this novel is "satisfying." Rhonda feels authentic, flawed, and complicated, her blossoming romance with Sarah's brother does not feel contrived, and the final confrontation that Rhonda has with her ex-boyfriend (and the guy who got her pregnant) is extremely satisfying, particularly for anyone who's ever found themselves under the power of a mean-spirited person in high school. Rhonda's revenge is exceptionally sweet!

It would be easy for this novel to fall back on a particular moral stance - teens should not be having sex, abortion should be illegal, etc. - but the author keeps the discussion fluid and complicated without sacrificing the elements of a good story.

While the story itself is strong, this isn't a novel I would automatically suggest for someone looking for a contemporary setting or strong characters. The complicated issues are what will draw readers to this novel, and some people just don't want to deal with these moral quandries while reading. But for someone who does appreciate a well-constructed teen issue novel, this would be an excellent suggestion.

Readalikes:

November Blues - Sharon Draper. November is a high-achieving senior, but the day after her boyfriend dies in a freak hazing accident, she learns that she is pregnant. Both novels deal with teen pregnancy and shattered family relationships, although November Blues is told from two perspectives: November's & Jericho's - the cousin & close friend of November's boyfriend.

The First Part Last - Angela Johnson. Told from the teen father's perspective, this story recounts the struggle of a sixteen-year-old single dad through alternating "then" and "now" chapters.

Jumping Off Swings - Jo Knowles. This complex contemporary novel tells the story of one girl's pregnancy through four different perspectives without casting blame on any one character. ( )
  coloradogirl14 | Jan 5, 2014 |
I liked this book a lot it was funny and it had some life lessons in it too.
  TamaraG | Nov 21, 2010 |
Reviewed by Jaglvr for TeensReadToo.com

Rhombus: a parallelogram with four equal sides and sometimes one with no right angles. -Merriam-Webster online dictionary

On page one of this story, the reader meets the narrator, Rhonda Lee. Rhonda is a senior at Piedmont and tutors after school at West Columbia Community Center. Upon entering Piedmont, she was popular, but things have changed since she was a freshman. Enter Sarah Gamble - a junior, a cheerleader, popular, and forced by her mom, Justice Gamble, to find a tutor to help her with math.

What starts out as Rhonda's animosity towards Sarah and all of the kids like her at their school soon turns to a mutual understanding between the two girls. After their second tutoring session, Rhonda has deduced that Sarah is pregnant. With a simple "How far along are you?" by Rhonda, the friendship begins.

As Sarah struggles to come to terms with her pregnancy, and her ultimate decision, flashbacks by Rhonda fill the reader in on her history and previous pregnancy. Rhonda has shut herself off from anything but her studies and her goals to get into Georgia Tech on a scholarship. Her friendship and support to Sarah help her realize that past mistakes do not have to limit your future happiness. And so evolves the story, and the eventual outcomes of the choices each girl has to make, ultimately on their own.

Wow, what a great story! From the start, I didn't want to put the book down. And if it weren't for having to get up for work the next morning, I would easily have read the entire book in one sitting. As it was, I had to wait until the following day to complete it.

The most surprising thing is that the author of the book is a male. The story is told in the first person by a female. Mr. Johnson tells the story simply, without preaching, nor without choosing sides between pregnancy and abortion. He makes you think about the choices each girl has had to make with their lives, and how they will have to live with those decisions. Mr. Johnson is able to do that convincingly, even as a male. Reading the questions to the author at the end of the book, it was interesting to find out that the original concept of the story was meant to be written as an adult book, told from Rhonda's father's viewpoint. He has captured the struggles of teen girls perfectly, and the story is quite believable.

A similar story is ANGEL'S CHOICE by Lauren Baratz-Logsted, but Mr. Johnson's book has even more depth and emotion. Because of his uncanny ability to portray teen girls without coming across as knowing the right answers, I bestow a Gold Star Award on this book. ( )
  GeniusJen | Oct 12, 2009 |
The world needs more young adult novels about math tutors. I didn't realize how badly the world needs more young adult novels about tutoring until I read this, but now that I have? The world needs more young adult novels about math tutors.

So, we have Rhonda. She's got her eye on Georgia Tech and an engineering degree, and she and her father (her mother died when she was young) don't talk to each other so well anymore, not after her father made her get an abortion a few years back. She doesn't talk at all to the boy who got her pregnant, nor does she talk to anyone else in that popular set anymore. But between adult pressure on one side and the temptation of a letter of recommendation from one of Georgia Tech's most favored alums on the other, Rhonda ends up tutoring a rich girl from the popular set. During the first few grit-her-teeth-and-smile tutoring sessions, Rhonda realizes: her tutoree is pregnant. Just like Rhonda was.

I loved this book all to death.

First of all, the friendships actually work the way I remember my high school friendships working: everyone is in them for their own reasons, with their own agendas, and the orbit of people you travel among is defined as much by who you share a mutual-defense alliance with as who you have close personal ties to. There isn't even a hint of "unquestioned leader and entourage" that I so often see in depictions of high school.

And there's all the lovely details about what math tutoring is like. The thrill of a tutoree getting it, of course, but also all the class stuff. The way tutorees blithely mistake your sincere but paid-for concern for their grades as actual friendship; the way you get into tutoring partly with the thought of paying back a cosmic gift by helping people who aren't fortunate enough to have that gift, and yet you too-often find yourself standing with a sinking feeling in front of a house with a frickin' colonnade.

And I love the book's dense network of conflicting relationships and loyalties, of who's keeping what private from whom, and how all the relationships rock whenever something that was private becomes public. Also I adore the boyfriend who is trying so hard to be responsible and ethical and treat Rhonda well, but who is too young to really know how to have a relationship with someone who's carrying as much trust-damage as Rhonda is.

But mostly it made me giggle. There's a lot of light-heartedness in this book, and the characters just plain make me laugh. I know the summary reads like a problem novel (OMG! TEEN ABORTION!), but the novel itself doesn't read as such. It has characters who flirt by means of stupid math jokes, after all. How could it not make me giggle?
1 vote sanguinity | Feb 8, 2009 |
Rhonda used to be one of the popular girls at her prestigious prep school, but all it got her was trouble. Now she's a wallflower, a smart girl who tutors kids at the community center, dreams of going to Georgia Tech on a scholarship, and watches the popular kids with a mixture of envy and disgust. When popular girl Sarah Gamble comes to her for tutoring, Rhonda refuses at first. But they have much more in common than she ever could have guessed.

This book has a really interesting premise and it's refreshing to read about African American characters in a book that doesn't center around race. But the writing fell flat for me, so overall it was just okay. ( )
  abbylibrarian | Nov 3, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0738711608, Paperback)

A 2009 New York Public Library "Stuff for the Teen Age" Selection

Boys + Love = Trouble   Right? 

Staying on track at school means a boy-free equation for Rhonda Lee, who spends most evenings doing homework and eating Chinese takeout with her dad. While Rhonda needs a scholarship for college, some kids at her private high school, like beautiful Sarah Gamble, seem to coast along on popularity and their parents' money.

When forced to tutor Sarah in trigonometry, Rhonda recognizes all too well the symptoms-queasiness, puking, exhaustion-that Sarah is trying to mask. On a sudden impulse, Rhonda shares her past with Sarah. Exchanging their secrets adds up to more truths than either girl would have dreamed.

"Without a bit of preaching, [this is] a story of two teenage girls who are faced with the consequences of unplanned pregnancies. [Readers] will love the emotional peaks and valleys of the tale." -Ellen Wittlinger, author of Hard Love

"A sensitive and powerful friendship story. Realistic and heartfelt." -Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of Tantalize

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:07 -0400)

When the classmate she is tutoring in trigonometry admits she is pregnant, high school junior Rhonda must finally come to terms with the abortion her father insisted she undergo three years earlier and examine how it has changed her life.

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