Nina: Adolescence

Nina: Adolescence

by Amy Hassinger, Mia Barron

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At the center of an attic studio littered with paints and portraits stands fifteen-year-old Nina, nude. A canvas separates her from her mother, who perches on a stool, paintbrush in hand. In a desperate attempt to coax her mother out of her emotional seclusion, Nina has offered herself up as a model. The painting, Nina: Adolescence, will mark her mother's


At the center of an attic studio littered with paints and portraits stands fifteen-year-old Nina, nude. A canvas separates her from her mother, who perches on a stool, paintbrush in hand. In a desperate attempt to coax her mother out of her emotional seclusion, Nina has offered herself up as a model. The painting, Nina: Adolescence, will mark her mother's triumphant return to the Boston art world and form the centerpiece of a gallery show.

But the exposure makes Nina uneasy, and her father begins to protest with increasing vehemence. The family starts to come apart, sending Nina into a tailspin as she recklessly attempts to free herself from a disintegrating household and the confines of someone else's fame. With the tension reaching a breaking point, Nina finds that the gift she gave to her mother is rapidly becoming a sacrifice and could very well serve to be the cause of her

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
First-time author Hassinger excels at describing the title character's "limited and limiting" adolescent mind, but stage and screen actress Barron (Guiding Light; Amy Rules) truly brings this troubled character to life in this eerily seductive narrative. Told from the perspective of Nina Begley, who was with her younger brother when he drowned, the novel tracks the unraveling of a family. After the accident, Nina's father turns to drink and her artist mother, Marion, shutters herself in her room. To draw her mother out, Nina offers to pose for a painting and doesn't even balk when Marion asks her to pose nude. Hassinger perfectly captures the guilt and thirst for affection that compels Nina to pose nude and, eventually, to attend an art exhibit featuring her own adolescent body. Barron's vocal talents shine here, as well. Though she narrates the story in soft, muted tones, her voice takes on all the uncertainty and rebelliousness of youth when teenage Nina strikes back at her narcissistic mother by having a secret affair with Marion's 30-something ex-beau. All in all, Barron's skilled, sensitive telling nicely compliments Barron's expressive prose, making this an exceptional audio adaptation. Simultaneous release with the Putnam hardcover. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
An engaging coming-of-age novel, Nina: Adolescence relates the story of 15-year-old Nina Begley, who agrees to pose in the nude for her artist mother and then suffers from the unwanted attention she attracts when the paintings are made public. Nina's family is still trying to come to terms with the accidental drowning death of four-year-old Jonas four years earlier. Nina was taking care of her brother when the drowning occurred. Nina encourages her mother Marion's return to her painting as a cure for her deep depression, and Nina's participation helps to assuage her own guilt. Clearly depicted is the fragility and insecurity of adolescence, which in this case makes Nina easy prey for sexual predators like Leo Beck, a photographer friend and former lover of her mother. Calling Nina beautiful, he lures her and photographs her in compromising poses, taking advantage of her naiveté. Explicit sexual scenes are described. Nina turns to her ballet lessons and to Raissa, her only friend, who tries to support Nina, but she is in over her head with stress and suffering. The story is beautifully told, arousing sympathy for each member of the family caught in this web, but especially for Nina and her father Henry. The reader's interest is riveted on the fate of these characters. Mature teens and adults will find Nina: Adolescence to be both thought provoking and suspenseful. KLIATT Codes: A—Recommended for advanced students and adults. 2003, Penguin, 304p., Ages 17 to adult.
—Susan Allison
Library Journal
For Nina, posing nude for her painter mother means a chance for them to grow closer after the accidental drowning of her four-year-old brother. Chronicling her daughter's emergence from girl to woman provides Marion with a way out of her depression and the joy of rediscovering her artistic talent. But at 15 Nina is embarrassed to have outsiders see her changing body. As a rebellious teenager, Nina allows herself to be photographed nude by her mother's former lover, a situation leading to sex and a downward spiral for Nina as she flirts with anorexia and loses interest in her consuming passion, dancing. A first-time novelist, Hassinger captures Nina's troubled life in a way that speaks to both teens and parents. This young woman grows up quickly as she deals with her dysfunctional family and learns that she lacks the experience to handle the attention she receives from older men. Mia Barron's reading adds to the story's realism as she expresses Nina's uncertainty and rebellion, even going so far as to end her sentences with the questioning, upward lilt of adolescent speech. The tape quality is excellent. Recommended for large public libraries.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A grieving mother uses her daughter as an artistic muse, complicating and ultimately destroying the girl's vulnerable adolescence: an achingly straightforward debut set in the Boston suburbs. Four years ago, four-year-old Jonas Begley drowned in the backyard pond while his mother, Marian, was on the phone and 11-year-old sister Nina wasn't paying attention. Now, in atonement, Nina has offered herself as a subject for Marian's paintings in order to draw her out of a prolonged depression. Innocuous enough at first, the canvases soon are all nudes, and as Marian works single-mindedly toward her first big show, she fails to recognize the danger of publicly exposing her daughter's fragile, changing 15-year-old body. Henry, Nina's father, objects vigorously; his clashes with Marian about artistic expression endanger their marriage. Nina, on the other hand, grows increasingly confused. Pursued by big-time art critic Leo Beck, her mother's former lover, Nina falls under his sway, both to get back at her manipulative mother and to assert her own sexuality. Hassinger builds her touching drama with a refreshingly undramatic simplicity, as Nina, a ballet dancer, begins to scrutinize her body as others might see it. Her state of painful disembodiment and the oily Beck's machinations are torturous to witness; unlike Nina, the reader knows what's coming. Hassinger keeps the story tightly focused on the surviving family of three, whose tenuous structure is threatened by the few outside characters: Beck; Nina's bold new friend Raissa, who also serves as a potential sexual partner; and a few objectionable folks in the art world. The author is loath to present any of the Begleys, especially Marian, in anunflattering light, a reluctance that lessens the story's emotional force. The sad outcome to Nina's plight is hastily smothed over (relegated to "family therapy") before the reader has a chance to eperience the climax, especialy with regard to a satisfying resolution between Nina and her mother. Affecting, but lacking real teeth. Agent: Stéphanie Abou/Joy Harris Agency

Product Details

Listen & Live Audio, Inc.
Publication date:
Fiction Ser.
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.26(w) x 6.20(h) x 2.67(d)

Meet the Author

Amy Hassinger has taught writing for both the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Iowa State University. She is currently at work on her second novel.

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