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Me, Penelope

Me, Penelope

by Lisa Clough

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The road to independence has never been easy.

What Penelope Yeager wants:

1. Get out of high school.
2. Have sex.
3. Fall in love.
4. Get her driver’s license.
5. Forget what happened ten years ago.
6. See her mother happy.

She’s figured out how to get out of school a year early. If she can figure out the


The road to independence has never been easy.

What Penelope Yeager wants:

1. Get out of high school.
2. Have sex.
3. Fall in love.
4. Get her driver’s license.
5. Forget what happened ten years ago.
6. See her mother happy.

She’s figured out how to get out of school a year early. If she can figure out the rest, maybe she’ll actually be happy. Unfortunately, the rest isn’t nearly as easy.

“Jahn-Clough’s prose is infused with startling flashes of beauty”—Horn Book

"Fast-paced, well-written story."—School Library Journal

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Many teenagers obsess about sex and Penelope (Lopi) Yeager, the 16-year-old girl at the center of Jahn-Clough's (Country Girl, City Girl) latest novel, is certainly among them. Having grown up with her young, single mother Viv's revolving door of boyfriends, Lopi isn't exactly surprised by her own one-track mind ("I am so seriously screwed up. Never happy, never satisfied. Never alone, never together. I want so much"). Additionally, Lopi is burdened by her younger brother's death: her parents mistakenly ran over him when she was six years old, and she still believes it was her fault they divorced. Viv's current love interest is Josh; he's 14 years her junior and has all but moved in, making Lopi feel even more out of place. To hasten her independence, she strives to graduate high school a year early and leave her mother's watch behind (and to have sex as soon as possible). Although Lopi is able to put into motion the first half of her scheme, she finds the sex part of the equation less straightforward. She fumbles through awkward situations, frantically seeking sex and love, and hopelessly confusing the two. At times, the contrast between her naïve fits of desperation and her mature thought processes can seem too great, and teens may well grow frustrated with her rash and melodramatic behavior. However, Jann-Clough deserves credit for resisting the urge to wrap up Lopi's story too tidily. Ages 14-up. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
VOYA - Lisa A. Hazlett
For ten years, sixteen-year-old Lopi (short for Penelope) has lived in a self-created world in which only shame, fear, and pain exist. When six, she inadvertently contributed to the tragic, accidental death of her toddler brother, Adam. Her father's subsequent abandonment destroyed the closeness between Lopi and her mother, Viv, especially as Viv moved past the accident. Lopi assumes that she was born evil and fixates on sex, believing that it alone allows feelings other than pain but also fearing that her innate wickedness repels partners and any positive emotions. She obsessively attempts to discover which scenario holds true, but moments from consummation, three times Lopi retreats, always unready. Only her sole friend, Harry, aka Toad, recognizes her escalating instability. Chapter beginnings feature heart drawings, cunningly shaped to represent subsequent themes and Lopi's emotions. Narrated by Lopi, the story immediately tantalizes because although her despair is progressively detailed, its cause, Adam's accident, teases for some fifty pages. Unfortunately Lopi's words center on her unrelenting misery, increasingly portraying her unsympathetically, and her partners' cheerful compliance with her unexpected consummation refusals are unrealistic and unintentionally humorous. Lopi and Toad begin a romance, as Viv happily plans remarriage after an automobile accident. Newfound bliss seemingly instantly erases Lopi's despair and allows understanding of Adam's death being accidental, with Viv's recovery spurring them toward counseling and relationship rebuilding. This idyllic ending regrettably intimates that women need men for fulfillment and stability, an already ubiquitous message.Girls who enjoy triumph over adversity stories would profit from Lopi's experiences.
KLIATT - Myrna Marler
Lopi, short for Penelope, is a 16-year-old prickly loner, bright, even intellectually arrogant. She thinks of high school as a prison and plots a way to get out a year early. She has guilt issues over her younger brother's death ten years earlier, jealousy issues over her bright and vivacious mother, "Viv," and father issues because of his abrupt departure from the family after the brother's death and "Viv's" subsequent tendency to date only younger men. The novel's theme purports to be the question of whether good and evil balance each other in the world, but really, this is the story of a girl's quest to get laid before she graduates. Lopi says she wants to do it with someone she loves and that she knows sex and love are different, but she makes attempt after attempt with the most inappropriate candidates, completely ignoring the boy next door, attractively named "Toad" (there may be some symbolism there about a princess kissing a frog). In fact, this girl is so self-absorbed and self-analytical, she barely notices other people are in the room unless they're staring at her. Perhaps teenagers wouldn't see the end of this book coming from the beginning. And perhaps self-absorption is a character trait to which many teens can relate. In the book's favor are lively prose, humorous situations, and certain quirks in the plot that surprise.
School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up
Penelope Yeager, 16, has arranged to graduate and head to college a year early to get away from her flirty, immature mother, Viv. When she was six, Lopi's two-year-old brother was run over by her parents' car, and she blames herself. After her parents' divorce, the minimal counseling she received barely helped. Lopi still struggles with her feelings about his death, but she is also preoccupied with finding true love and having sex for the first time. After three unsuccessful romantic encounters, including being put off by her mother's prospective fiancé, she realizes that her friend Toad is "the one." When Viv survives a serious auto accident, she finally talks with Lopi about what happened to her brother and agrees to provide more therapy. Lopi is a realistic character with usual teen worries and the additional burden of overwhelming guilt. As she works through the process of finishing high school, getting accepted into college, making friends, resolving issues with her mother, and finding a boyfriend in Toad, she becomes more self-assured. She begins to overcome her sorrow and appears to be heading toward a happier future. When she and Toad suddenly acknowledge their serious feelings for one another, they quickly hop into bed, but use a condom. Despite the predictable romance, this fast-paced, well-written story will appeal to those who enjoyed Kristen Tracy's Lost It (S & S, 2007) and Marlene Perez's Unexpected Development (Roaring Brook, 2004).
—Diane P. TuccilloCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Kirkus Reviews
Sixteen-year-old Penelope-or Lopi-is a solitary sort who wishes for two things: to graduate early from high school, and to have sex with someone she loves. Lopi's relationship with her mother, Viv, has been tense ever since her younger brother was killed in a freak accident, which is also the likely source of Lopi's contradictory desires for escape and belonging. Struggling with the past, Lopi desperately seeks the attention of three guys, one of whom is her mother's boyfriend. None of her advances pay off, leaving her feeling undesirable and depressed; but her childhood friend, Toad, remains a constant support to her, causing Lopi to wonder if their relationship could develop into something more. Meanwhile, Viv chooses to ignore the past, focusing instead on her young boyfriend and a myriad of interests and carnal pleasures. Despite her brother's death, Lopi is not unlike many teenaged girls, leaving one to wonder why tragic circumstances were used to justify typical teen angst. This device, used by many authors for teens, is tiresome, but does serve up extra drama for the intended audience. (Fiction. YA)

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Sold by:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt

My name is Penelope Yeager, Lopi for short. I appear normal—normal for a sixteen-year-old American girl, that is. I live with a single mother who is still young and beautiful, more beautiful than I will ever be. My father left when I was six, after the accident.
He moved across the country and I haven’t seen him since. Viv says he has a new wife and two new children. He’s moved on with a new life. I can’t say I blame him.

Viv, my mother, has moved on by filling her life with activity and people, covering the memory with various substances, both legal and illegal, forcing herself by any means to be happy. I think she is in denial.

I have not moved on.

I look like nothing special. Longish brown hair, a smattering of freckles, thin lips that I wish were fuller, breasts a little larger than I’d like, hips a little narrow, but in general an okay body. I’m nothing to write home about, but I’m nothing freakish either. If I put my hair up in a ponytail I can pass for a lacrosse player, if I leave it stringy I can pass for a druggie, if I put it in pigtails and wear a baggy shirt I can pass for about twelve, and if I puff it up, wear a little makeup, and stick my chest out I can maybe pass for a college student. However, I am none of these things.

Anyway, it’s not my looks or my body that dissatisfies me (most of the time)—it’s my thinking. Mainly I can’t stop thinking. Sometimes I want things so badly, all I can do is long for them until I get really, really sad.

I think that my mind must be different from others’. I don’t know how people can be so together, so calm and happy all the time. I don’t believe them. Take my mother, for instance. She appears happy, but how can she be, really? Her life has been full of tragedy.
There are times when I am sitting there reading a book or studying for a math test, watching TV even, and my mind is off in a thousand places. Really what I am doing is trying not to think, but I can’t help it. I think about the future, what I’d rather be doing, what could happen. I think about school and how things have shifted this year, how all I want to do is get out. I think about my friends and how I don’t really have any anymore, except for Toad and that’s changing—all we do is bicker like an old married couple, and we’ve never even been boyfriend and girlfriend.

Basically, I think about my life a lot, and sometimes to make my life better, I make things up. I think about how I want someone that I can talk to, really, really talk to. I’d like to see a shrink, but Viv says we can’t afford one and that it’s unnecessary for me, yet she sees one regularly. I saw one once when I was eight, but now Viv thinks I am doing fine. I am good at pretending.

And then there’s sex. A lot of what I think about these days is sex. How to get it, if I want it, who I want it with. They say teenage boys are obsessed, but I think I have them beat hands down. Ha. Hands down, get it? See how my mind works? I have fantasy scenes going on a good part of the time in my head. If I could just find someone to connect with—really deeply connect with, the rest wouldn’t matter so much. If I could only be touched all the way down to my soul, now that would be something.

Meet the Author

Lisa Jahn-Clough has written and illustrated a number of books for young children, including Alicia Has a Bad Day, My Friend and I, Missing Molly, Simon and Molly Plus Hester, and On the Hill, as well as her debut young adult novel Country Girl, City Girl. She is the chair of the illustration program at Maine College of Art and also teaches at the Vermont College Writing for Children and Young Adults program. She lives in Portland, Maine.

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