Bloomability

 

Warning!  May Contain Spoilers
Don’t like?  Read the book first.

Unlike Meg Cabot, I’ve picked up some of Sharon Creech’s work before.  As a kid, one of my teachers gave me her book Absolutely Normal Chaos and I fell in love with it.  I love diary-style books and this one was right up my alley.

So when I saw Bloomability at the thrift store (I think it was the same day I picked up All-American Girl,) I didn’t think twice before grabbing it.

The story is about Domenica Santolina Doone, usually called Dinnie.  Dinnie has spent most of her life travelling around the US while her dad picks up odd jobs here and there.  Eventually, they agree that she’d be better off in a more stable environment (after her sister (a teenager) gets pregnant and her brother gets thrown in jail again) she’s taken by an uncle and aunt she’s never met and moved to Switzerland to attend an international boarding school her uncle just became the headmaster of.

Dinnie’s family other than her aunt and uncle never gain much depth as characters.  Her dad works hard but has bad luck, her mom is hopelessly stuck with him, and her sister and brother are…surviving is a good word for it.  Her aunt and uncle really want Dinnie to have something special and stable in a home and you can see them working really hard for her.  Dinnie herself is very much the product of how she was raised.  She misses her family terribly and keeps imagining herself kidnapped or floating above her situation.  The fact that she doesn’t hear from her parents often helps contribute to her feeling of loneliness and homesickness.  Once she begins to open up and make friends, however, she discovers that maybe she can become a different person, one not held down by her family.  Her friends all remain vaguely side characters, as none of them have much of a personality (although the author tries really hard to give a couple of them something of a personality.)  There’s one friend she makes early on who I guess we’re supposed to feel sorry for, like Dinnie does, but the girl is just annoying and bitchy and you find yourself agreeing with everyone else in the book that she needs to go rather than feeling sorry for her.

The big drama in the story (when, on a skiing trip two of her friends are trapped in a landslide) feels more forced than it should.  I felt that there was enough drama and plot around getting Dinnie to realize that the life she was living she could escape from.  That it was okay for her to dream bigger and to want better things.  Her “bloomability” as the name of the book suggests.  The landslide thing felt unnecessary, only offering a chance to see how other people’s families influence someone’s personality.

It’s also not written like Absolutely Normal Chaos because, instead of a nice, simple diary format, this one is a first-person point of view but not quite diary style.  Dinnie doesn’t write a normal diary.  You get snippets from her dream journal, and her seeming to talk to something or someone, but not in any sort of diary fashion so you get passage of time, etc.  Days, weeks and seasons all seem to blend together.

Unlike a lot of books, though, because this one takes place in a foreign country, there’s a lot of really nice descriptions about how everything looks.  Most young adult novels taking place in Anytown USA don’t really expand much on the idea of the suburb.  Everyone gets what a neighborhood looks like and what grocery stores are like, etc.  But  this takes place in Switzerland and while the school isn’t really expanded on much (you can quickly understand what the boarding school is like) the surrounding countryside is beautifully but simply explained and is quite picturesque.

Final Thoughts:  It isn’t her best work, but it could rate worse on the scale.  3.5-4 stars.

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