Book Review: Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Book Review: Unbecoming by Jenny Downham


Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Last year, I saw a lot of readers describe Unbecoming as one of their favourite books of the year and I’m always curious about these books. I love stories about generations of women because my own family is quite young. I often hang out with my mother and grandmother, but what if I didn’t grow up like that? And neither did my mother?

That’s the case for 17-year-old Katie. Katie’s always had a difficult relationship with her busy, fiercely organised and headstrong mother Caroline, but this intensifies when Katie discovers that she has a grandmother. Mary is sprightly and fascinating – and she is suffering from Alzheimer’s. If you’ve read Elizabeth is Missing, Caroline reminds me of Maud’s daughter. But it’s even more complicated because Mary wasn’t there for Caroline when she needed her most, even though the reasons for this – as we discover – aren’t as simple as they first seem.

Unbecoming tackles female relationships most wonderfully, from familial to friendship to romantic. It focuses particularly on Katie and Mary as we slowly unravel Mary’s troublesome past and Katie’s equally as complicated present. We watch as they forge an unbreakable bond. I’d have also loved to hear from Caroline as a third perspective, since she also has to deal with a whole lot and her reasons for being frustrated and overprotective aren’t unfounded – her voice would have tied everything together perfectly. In Unbecoming, every relationship, no matter what kind, never feels fabricated and is a special way to explore issues like dementia, coming out, bullying, teenage pregnancy and disability.

If you’re a YA fan who’s looking for something close to adult fiction, this is a great pick for you!


Published: September 2015
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Pages: 437
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Behold the Pretty Books! / September Book Haul

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

  1. This sounds great. I am looking for more YA to Adult cross-overs to read at the minute (I had a YA overload last year) but what’s really enticing is the female relationship elements, across generations as well, sounds really interesting. Will definitely be checking this out!

  2. I haven’t read enough novels that focus on female relationships, so this might be the exact sign that I need to read more! This sounds like a lovely novel that focuses around the theme.
    Great review!

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