My Life as a Rhombus

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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' ...

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My Life as a Rhombus

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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

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Editorial Reviews

AGERANGE: Ages 15 to 18.

When Rhonda, a senior, begins tutoring Sarah, a popular junior, she isn’t happy with the arrangement. Rhonda prefers to tutor younger students, and wants nothing to do with her peers, especially from the popular group. Without really knowing anything about Sarah, Rhonda decides she doesn’t like her. When Rhonda discovers that Sarah is pregnant, and has yet to tell anyone, she decides to befriend Sarah. After all, Sarah could use someone with a little empathy and compassion, and since Rhonda was in Sarah’s shoes a few years ago, she can relate. Sarah’s pregnancy forces Rhonda to deal with her own feelings toward what she went through. In the three years since her abortion, Rhonda has thrown herself into her schoolwork, figuring if she keeps her head down and gets good grades, she’ll keep out of trouble. A math whiz, Rhonda creates a set of rules and theorems to govern the rest of high school. When Sarah makes a difficult decision about her pregnancy, Rhonda can no longer turn her back on her past. She struggles to deal with what happened and to mend all of the relationships that have suffered. This loaded topic will naturally lend itself to intense discussions about the characters’ actions. The variety of reactions, choices, and feelings are realistic and nuanced. The characters are sometimes frustrating and feel one-dimensional, but as the story unfolds, the reasons behind their actions become clearer. Though Rhonda prefers numbers to words, it is her understanding that she needs to start talking and coping with her past that propels her to move forward and finally start to live again. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
March 2008 (Vol. 42, No.2)

AGERANGE: Ages 15 to Adult.

Rhonda is a senior at Piedmont Academy where money defines status. Focused on getting an engineering scholarship to Georgia Tech, Rhonda has created her own rigid behavior rules that distance her from the popular clique. She balks at tutoring cheerleader Sarah Gamble in math but concludes that Sarah's mother, a Supreme Court judge and Georgia Tech grad, could provide a powerful scholarship recommendation. While tutoring, Rhonda discovers that Sarah is pregnant and Rhonda discloses her own pregnancy at fifteen. Forced by her father to have an abortion, Rhonda is now estranged from him and afraid of any romantic connection with the opposite sex. The girls eventually travel to Atlanta for Sarah's abortion, but Sarah backs out. Her pregnancy opens the door for Rhonda to confront her father, her former boyfriend, and her emotions and sexuality, now aroused by Sarah's brother David. Although the main protagonists are black, their friends and problems are multiracial. The f-bomb and scenes of teen drinking pepper the dialogue and action. Rhonda and Sarah come alive but fall short of grabbing any heartstrings. The use of mathematical terms as chapter titles is clever and humor lightens the serious issue of teen pregnancy; however, Johnson's message is crystal-clear. Rhonda's abortion left her with serious emotional scars while Sarah's decision to keep her baby gives her the potential for future happiness. Although not an essential purchase, this novel will help reinforce the importance of responsible sex and underscore the ramifications of abortion. Reviewer: Barbara Johnson
April 2008 (Vol. 31, No. 1)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780738711607
  • Publisher: Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd.
  • Publication date: 1/1/2008
  • Pages: 312
  • Sales rank: 484,286
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Growing up, Varian Johnson couldn't decide whether he wanted to be an engineer or a writer, so he decided to do both. His first novel A Red Polka Dot In A World Full of Plaid made the Essence Magazine bestseller list in March 2006. He lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife and two cocker spaniels.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Jaglvr for

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

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 15, 2011

    change my viewing of teen pregnancy

    this book changed my mind about teen pregnancy what rhonda did i could never do. she was there for sarah when alot of people were against her and that is what i love about rhonda. this story really touched me and i have learned to not care what people think about you

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2008

    A reviewer

    'My Life As A Rhombus,'by Varian Johnson was an outstanding book.The book teaches you never to judge anyone before getting to meet them,no matter who you've came across in the past.It shows how to learn to have trust in your friends,and also to keep your head in your books.I'm fifteen and this book tought me alot,I really think other teen girls should read this book it teaches some valuable lessons that you will never forget.I hope everyone enjoy this book as much as I did!

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