Life as It Comes

Life as It Comes

by Anne-Laure Bondoux
     
 

Sisters with nothing in common? That's Mado and Patty.

Studious and responsible, 15-year-old Mado is the family brain. Patty, on the other hand, is a carefree 20-year-old party girl who lives on her own and has plenty of boyfriends. The two are following divergent paths . . . until their parents die in a car accident and a family court judge reluctantly appoints

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Overview

Sisters with nothing in common? That's Mado and Patty.

Studious and responsible, 15-year-old Mado is the family brain. Patty, on the other hand, is a carefree 20-year-old party girl who lives on her own and has plenty of boyfriends. The two are following divergent paths . . . until their parents die in a car accident and a family court judge reluctantly appoints Patty as her sister's guardian.

Now these two improbable siblings face the challenges of growing up together—but it's Mado who quickly assumes the big sister's role. And it's not a role she particularly wants—especially after Patty announces that she's several months pregnant. . . .

Anne-Laure Bondoux writes with insight, humor, and poignancy about the bonds between sisters—and the challenges of everyday life.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Containing as much romance, scandal and drama as a soap opera, Bondoux's (The Killer's Tears) novel examines how two Parisian sisters, as different as night and day, must reinvent their notion of family after their parents are killed in an automobile accident. Mado, the 15-year-old narrator of the story, emerges as a more sympathetic and convincing character than her recently appointed guardian, sister Patty, a 20-year-old party girl, whose lack of sound judgment and immature behavior may be as frustrating to readers as it is to Mado. The two girls find themselves in a precarious situation when Patty becomes pregnant and waits too long to have an abortion. Fearing the reaction of social workers, who have warned her that "at the slightest digression, [her] guardianship may be reconsidered," Patty attempts to conceal her condition. Near the end of her pregnancy term, she whisks Mado away to their inherited country home, where both girls fall hard and fast for a pair of fellow vacationers from the Netherlands. While the author portrays the girls' reactions to their obstacles credibly, the book's climax�which involves Mado's solo delivery of Patty's child�is as implausible as the sudden appearance of the baby's estranged father, who paves the way for a too-tidy resolution. Ages 14-up. (Feb.)

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VOYA - Ann T. Reddy-Damon
After the fatal car accident that killed their parents, free-spirited Patty becomes her fifteen-year-old sister Mado's guardian. Everything would be fine except Mado learns of Patty's pregnancy. It will jeopardize their living situation. They manage to escape this reality when they go to the French resort town Ardeche for a three-week vacation and have a summer fling with the Dutch boys in the cottage next door. Reality returns, however, when Patty gives birth and refuses to accept responsibility for the new baby boy. Mado is again faced with Patty's irresponsibility when she awakes to the baby's cries and a note that starts, "You're going to hate me." Left stranded, she names the baby Robinson and is rescued by the father of the child. This translation from French by the author offers the American reader a comparison between growing up in Europe and the United States. Although the surroundings are very different, the emotions are familiar. Mado sums it up saying, "I think life itself transforms us into adults; it's not necessary to add anything to it." Perhaps because of the translation, the text can be stilted at times, but it does not hinder the reading. Middle and high school readers looking for a realistic presentation of life's consequences will enjoy this fast-paced novel.
KLIATT - Claire Rosser
This is a European story, with French sisters the main characters, coping together in a crisis. The narrator is Mado, 15 years old, in the care of her older sister Patty, who is 20. Nearly nine months before this story begins, their parents died in a car crash. That in itself is a crisis. Now Mado learns that Patty is pregnant and it's too late in the pregnancy to get an abortion. Even though Patty is the oldest and the legal guardian, she and Mado both know that Mado is the sister who is decisive and pragmatic. After Mado's exams, they go to the family country house in August, generally cut off from the wider world. There, Patty's baby is born unexpectedly, with only Mado as midwife. They don't know what to do. If they acknowledge the baby to the authorities, they are afraid Patty will lose guardianship and Mado will have to go into foster care. Enter Luigi, the baby's father, the spurned boyfriend. Exit Patty, who runs away rather than face the consequences of parenthood. How all this evolves makes for a riveting story of grief, sibling conflict, and acknowledgement of personal responsibility and change that is related by an expert storyteller, the author of the prize-winning The Killer's Tears.
Kirkus Reviews
Like most 15-year-olds, Mado is stressed about exams, but unlike her peers, Mado knows that poor grades will signal to the family-court judge that her 20-year-old sister and only living relative isn't capable of caring for her. Determined to stay together in the wake of their parents' tragic death, these Parisian sisters try to cope with their glaring differences. Despite Patty's meager parenting skills, it's apparent that Mado is her own guardian. This role reversal is most clear when Patty reveals that she's several months pregnant and without plans for the child, forcing Mado to assume responsibilities she'd never dreamed possible and, most importantly, to learn to take life as it comes. Originally written in French, this text translates seamlessly as the sisters' raw emotions, which range from painfully overwhelmed to ecstatically in love, are understandable in any language. Although Mado's pragmatic voice dominates, both characters are well-developed and easily visualized. Sincere and believable. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385903912
Publisher:
Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
02/13/2007
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.81(w) x 8.63(h) x 0.78(d)
Age Range:
14 - 17 Years

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

Life as It Comes


By Anne-Laure Bondoux

Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Copyright © 2007 Anne-Laure Bondoux
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780385903912

1



I watch Patty as she chews her gum. Her mouth opens, closes, distorts. In the silent apartment, the spongy noise of her mastication marks the passing of time like the ticktock of a clock.

Patty is seated on the couch, one leg under her, the other on the coffee table. She's using the headset to watch TV, so as not to disturb me, and waiting for her nail polish to dry. The bottle is on the table, near her Laguna Blue-painted toenails. Patty never applies red like everyone else. It's too tacky, she says. Anyway, Patty hardly does anything like everyone else.

From my seat, I can't see the TV screen. What can she be watching at this time of the afternoon? I try to detect a clue from her face, a sign that will help me guess whether it's a hilarious comedy or a documentary about the Ming dynasty in ancient China, but Patty's face remains inscrutable. The earrings dangling from her many piercings jingle with each movement of her jaw. Ticktock, clink, clink. Patty is a fascinating machine. What is she thinking about? Is she even thinking about anything?

Sometimes I wonder if Patty doesn't suffer from brain atrophy.

I stretch, trying to shake off my musings, and go back to my studies. On the kitchen table, my books and notes are all jumbled. Note No. 21: "The First World War, the opposing forces. In the summer of 1914, 170 Allieddivisions against 150 Austro-Hungarian divisions."

Patty bursts a chewing-gum bubble.

"In Germany, the kaiser tells his troops: 'You'll be back before the leaves start to fall.' "

Patty bursts another bubble. I sigh. The lines on note No. 21 dance in front of my eyes and blur. "Before the leaves start to fall," said the kaiser to his soldiers. Was he sincere, or did he forget to say, "Before the leaves start to fall . . . four years from now"?

I nibble on my pen. How does it feel to go to war? I imagine the platform of a railroad station, the jostle of men wearing brand-new uniforms, the train leaving as if to take them on vacation by the seaside, except that this time, waiting for them at the end of the line are the mud of the trenches, the rats, the hidden enemy, and death.

Patty bursts a third bubble. It gets on my nerves, but I don't complain: better to endure bursting chewing-gum bubbles than exploding bombs.

Come on, Mado, stop daydreaming, I tell myself. All you need to know are dates, names, numbers. Try to concentrate!

The high school final exams are four days away, and I cannot afford to mess up. The family court judge made it very clear that my success in school was crucial. A sine qua non condition. If I fail, everything will be put in question again: my life with Patty, the apartment, vacations, the very foundation of our arrangement. Eight months ago, during our last interview, the judge didn't mince words. "The guardian's responsibility is a serious and difficult one," he explained to Patty. "You'll have to help your sister as much as possible, keep an eye on her report cards, be aware of her curriculum, spare her any stress, and make sure that she gets enough sleep. If Mado misbehaves, the legal responsibility is yours. At the slightest digression, the guardianship may be reconsidered." Patty nodded and signed all the necessary papers. Then she offered the judge a piece of gum to "celebrate." He took it, but by the way he sighed, I understood that he wasn't totally confident about our arrangement. I smiled at him encouragingly. My sister might not have looked like the ideal court-appointed adult, I wanted to tell him, but we were going to show him that we were able to keep our end of the agreement. Word of Yazinsky!

Still, Patty is Patty. No one will change her.

Over these last eight months, my sister has lived with the notion that everything is fine, that she can let me be. She goes out at night, invites friends every weekend, buys clothes and makeup just as before. She never gives me any orders or advice. As for my report cards, she simply signs them. "Mado has always been a good student," she says regularly to the social worker. "Not to worry." Listening to her, you'd believe that life is happy, easy, and worry-free.

I don't resent her attitude. Patty manages as best she can. She works hard, earns enough money to feed us, and takes me to the movies whenever I ask. She'll never replace Dad and Mom, but she is my sister. My big sister.

"By the way, Mado," she says suddenly, her voice loud because of the headset over her ears. "I told you I wouldn't be here this weekend, didn't I?"

I look up and raise my eyebrows. "No, you didn't mention it."

"What?"

"I said no. You didn't tell me."

She removes the headset and puts it down on the open crossword magazine next to her.

"It's Luigi. He's taking me to Amsterdam."

I shake my head. It's been a while since I heard about Luigi.

"What are you going to do over there?"

"What do you think?" Patty sighs as she turns off the TV. "It's a romantic trip, that's all."

I smile knowingly and quickly go back to my notes.

"Are you upset?"

"Me? No."

I can hear her blow on her toes to dry off the nail polish.

"You don't like Luigi, do you?" she asks.

"Yeah, yeah, I like him."

"Liar."

I swallow with difficulty. I don't want to get involved in Patty's love life. She's twenty years old, I'm fifteen, and I know we live on different planets. As for Luigi, I've seen him three or four times, which is plenty. He's ugly, stupid, and dirty.

"Never mind!" says Patty. "You're entitled to your opinion. You're not the one going to Holland anyway. Besides, you have to study. No chance of you getting bored."

"Not a chance."

"Is the exam on Wednesday?"

"Monday."

"Holy cow, so soon? Time goes by quickly."

My lips tighten, and suddenly I feel terribly sad. It's true that time goes by quickly . . . even when you believe that it has stopped forever.

It's already almost nine months since the accident. Nine months ago, in October . . . the month when "the leaves start to fall," as the kaiser would say. Dad and Mom had decided to take a week's vacation outside the crowded summer holidays. They were headed to our country house in Ardeche. On a winding county road, going down a steep slope, the car brakes failed.

"Mado?"

I give a start. Patty is standing in front of me, looking worried.

"It's OK, it's OK," I mumble. "I was thinking about my tests on Monday."

She accepts the lie willingly, relieved not to have to talk about "it." Yet she's not duped. She saw my fixed gaze, my wet eyes. She knows very well that I was thinking about them.

"Are you scared?" she asks, pointing to my notes.

"A little."

"You'll get over it, don't worry."

She expresses this platitude with such awkward tenderness that it almost breaks all my internal levees. We change the subject quickly before the sobs start up, before we get carried away by the tide of our grief.

"Come on, snap out of it, Mado!" she says in a falsely playful voice. "Let's have dinner at Lolo's."

I try to smile. Patty and I have about as much in common as a turtle and a baboon, but I like her all the same. With her gaudy nail polish, her ear piercings, her bleached and ungroomed hair, her crossword puzzles, her dilapidated jeans, and her Luigi . . . Patty is my sister, my legal guardian, my only family, my life buoy.


From the Hardcover edition.

Continues...

Excerpted from Life as It Comes by Anne-Laure Bondoux Copyright © 2007 by Anne-Laure Bondoux. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Anne-Laure Bondoux's other young adult novel is The Killer's Tears. She lives in Paris, France.

From the Hardcover edition.

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