The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls [NOOK Book]


I'm Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn't want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee's parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of "The Unbearable Book Club," CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren't friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you ...
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The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls

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I'm Adrienne Haus, survivor of a mother-daughter book club. Most of us didn't want to join. My mother signed me up because I was stuck at home all summer, with my knee in a brace. CeeCee's parents forced her to join after cancelling her Paris trip because she bashed up their car. The members of "The Unbearable Book Club," CeeCee, Jill, Wallis, and I, were all going into eleventh grade A.P. English. But we weren't friends. We were literary prisoners, sweating, reading classics, and hanging out at the pool. If you want to find out how membership in a book club can end up with a person being dead, you can probably look us up under mother-daughter literary catastrophe. Or open this book and read my essay, which I'll turn in when I go back to school.
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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Greta Holt
Her best friend Liz is in Canada, while Adrienne Haus is stuck at home with a fractured knee. What a boring summer it will be. But a surprising season of rich experiences unfolds. Over the summer, Adrienne must complete a creative narrative for an English 11 AP requirement. Her mother takes the lead by asking a number of girls and their mothers to participate in a book group with Adrienne. Members include the popular and bored CeeCee, the intellectual Jill, and Wallis whose circumstances are murky. Schumacher provides a narrative that contains equal parts literary learning, mystery, and youthful rebellion. The story's tone is upbeat and humorous, but the plot is infused with the serious issues of teenage drinking and driving, divorce, dyslexia, and mother/daughter relationships. Chapters are organized under the banner of literary terms: setting, conflict, symbolism, et cetera. The story—originally about a girl having to put up with the mere loss of her vacation—grows more significant throughout. A drunken youth dies, and Adrienne struggles to communicate with her mother about the identity of her father. Schumacher handles the increasing complexity of the narrative, and the literary structure of each chapter, with skill. Young adult readers may want to start their own (un)bearable book clubs. Reviewer: Greta Holt
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—Presented as an AP English essay assignment, with each chapter heading containing a definition of a literary term, this novel feels like a take on Ann Brashares's The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Delacorte, 2001). Fifteen-year-old Adrienne Haus is laid up with a fractured kneecap and torn ACL for the summer so her mother forces her to join a mother-daughter book club. Wealthy, rebellious CeeCee; Jill, an adopted Asian girl; and mysterious, secretive Wallis are the other unlikely teen members. Adrienne is a moody, self-conscious girl, and the complexity of the relationship with her unflappable mother is a pleasure to read, especially as she falls further and further under CeeCee's bad influence. Exceptionally strong characterization and attention to detail thoroughly place readers in a summer suburb in Delaware. Teens need not have read all the classics discussed throughout the book (e.g., The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The Left Hand of Darkness, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening), although some familiarity with them certainly enriches the story. Adrienne is a thoughtful reader, applying quotes from each of the books to real-life situations. However, like Catherine in Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey, she lets her imagination run away with her and incorrectly dreams up horrible scenarios that lead to a highly foreshadowed, yet suspenseful, tragic ending.—Madigan McGillicuddy, Gwinnett County Public Library, GA
From the Publisher

Starred Review, Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2012:
“The characters, especially the four girls, sparkle…. Smart and insightful.”

VOYA, April 2012:
"Required summer reading never seemed so exciting before."

The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, May 2012:

"Schumacher, author of the compelling Black Box, deftly allows elements of The Yellow Wallpaper, Frankenstein, The House on Mango Street, and The Awakening to infuse Adrienne’s thinking as she immerses herself in them and as her own story unfurls alongside them. The result is a story that explores the way books can and can’t inform lives, as Adrienne’s summer leads to some surprising, even tragic events; that makes this a natural for book-club discussion by reluctant and eager attendants alike."

VOYA - Tabitha Perry
Adrienne Haus was all set for an adventurous summer in the outdoors with her best friend. Unfortunately, an accident has her leg in a brace and her summer plans cancelled. She knew that she would end up spending the summer reading from the eleventh-grade AP English required reading list and working on the assigned essay, but she had no idea that reading would be the cause of her entire world being flipped on its side. Four girls are thrust together into a mother—daughter book club for the summer. The girls, all from different social circles, types of families, and economic standings, struggle to understand one another and end up finding out about themselves along the way. The story is written as Adrienne's summer reading essay. As she and the book club make their way through the books from the required reading list, she tells the story of what happened that summer, each chapter explaining a part of a story such as character, plot, climax, and resolution. Her story is packed full of references to literature, not only the books that the club reads but also others that Adrienne correlates to her life and her story. The structure of the story and these references give it the feel of reading an essay while still reading like a narrative, and much to the true form of a story, it has a twist at the end. Required summer reading never seemed so exciting before. Reviewer: Tabitha Perry
Kirkus Reviews
In a novel tailor-made for literature teachers, four unwilling high-school girls and their mothers join a summer book club with both comic and tragic results. In the summer before her junior year, Adrienne, recovering from a knee injury, falls under the influence of beautiful and irresponsible CeeCee, another reluctant member of the book club. Adrienne has always had a good relationship with her mother, but CeeCee flippantly bullies her into late-night excursions that do not end well and pesters Adrienne about her absent father. Reluctant to blame CeeCee for anything, Adrienne instead begins to worry that her single mother sees her as a "mistake." Meanwhile the two other girls, Jill and Wallis have problems of their own. Adrienne constantly re-injures her knee during CeeCee's midnight outings, the mothers begin quarreling with one another and circumstances deteriorate until the girls' final nighttime jaunt ends tragically. Schumacher weaves the narrative around common literary terms, such as setting, mood and conflict, which she illustrates in their respective chapters. Always a bookworm, Adrienne also ties her first-person narration into the five books the club reads, including The Left Hand of Darkness, Frankenstein and The Awakening. The characters, especially the four girls, sparkle, and even amid drama the narration remains lighthearted enough to appeal beyond bookish readers. Smart and insightful. (Realistic fiction. 12 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375985713
  • Publisher: Random House Children's Books
  • Publication date: 5/8/2012
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 609,603
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

JULIE SCHUMACHER is the author of several highly acclaimed children's books. She is a professor of English at the University of Minnesota.
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Read an Excerpt

“The Yellow Wallpaper”

1. SETTING: The place where the author puts the characters. It’s like setting a table, except that instead of using plates and silverware, you’re using people.

On our first day of membership in what CeeCee would later call the Unbearable Book Club, I was sitting in a plastic lounge chair at the West New Hope, Delaware, community pool, reading a dog-eared copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” According to the thermometer on the lifeguard stand, it was ninety-seven degrees. My hands were sweating so much they left stains on the pages.

CeeCee paused by the empty recliner next to mine. She was wearing a white crocheted bikini and dark sunglasses, and I saw a copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper” sticking out of her polka-dot bag. CeeCee’s thighs didn’t touch at the top, I noticed. We weren’t friends.

“Don’t you think we’re too old for this?” she asked.

I wasn’t sure she was talking to me: I wasn’t the sort of person CeeCee Christiansen usually talked to. The two of us chatting? It was like a dolphin hanging out with a squirrel. “It wasn’t my idea,” I said as a river of sweat worked its way down my spine. “I think our mothers set it up. They were in a yoga class together.”

CeeCee didn’t glance in my direction. She unponytailed her long blond hair and let it fall toward the ground like a satin curtain. “Believe me,” she said. “It wasn’t my mother’s idea. She doesn’t have the imagination.”

“Good to know.” I wiped my hands on my towel.

Twenty feet from the edges of our chairs, across a stretch of cement too hot to stand on, the pool flashed and glittered, a turquoise rectangle full of multicolored bodies leaping in and out of the water like flying fish.

CeeCee was staring at one of the lifeguards, who was staring back at her and twirling his whistle around his finger on a string: three twirls to the right, three to the left. She had apparently finished talking to me, so I picked up my book.

“You’re actually reading it.” She sat down and took the cap off a bottle of sunblock. When I turned toward her she smiled a closed-lipped smile, making me think of an alligator sunning itself on a riverbank.

“That’s the assignment,” I said. “We have to read ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ and four other books.”

“And learn a list of literary terms and write an essay,” CeeCee said. “This teacher’s insane. No one else assigns that kind of homework during the summer. I don’t care if it is AP.”

I squeegeed the sweat from my eyebrows with an index finger. I didn’t mind doing the reading--whatever I read would be more interesting than my day-to-day life--but I wasn’t looking forward to the essay. Most of the papers I wrote for school came back with suggestions in the margins about how my ideas could be organized. “I can’t find an argument here,” my tenth-grade history teacher had said.

“So you’re not going to read the books?” I asked CeeCee. I didn’t know Ms. Radcliffe yet, but she had a reputation for being stern and precise. I imagined her snapping a steel-edged ruler on my desk.

“It doesn’t matter if you read them.” CeeCee squirted a white ribbon of lotion onto her stomach. “Most of the books we read for school are crap. I usually just read the summary online, or I read the first couple of pages and then skip to the end.” She glanced at my copy of “The Yellow Wallpaper.” “You’re planning to read the whole thing?”

“I think that’s the point of a book,” I said. “You start at the beginning and you read to the end.” I hadn’t learned how to read until the middle of first grade, and I still felt grateful to my teacher, Ms. Hampl, who had knelt by my desk one afternoon and smoothed her finger across the parallel rows of two-dimensional black marks in my book--and as if she had opened a hidden door, I felt the patterned surface break and give way, and the words let me in. I still loved opening a book and feeling like I was physically entering the page, the ordinary world fizzing and blurring around the edges until it disappeared.

“You don’t have to take Advanced Placement,” I pointed out.

“Right. Only the helpless take regular English.” CeeCee squeezed some lotion onto her arms, which were thin and hairless. “AP classes have two kinds of kids in them: the kids who are smart, and the kids who don’t want to spend the year in a room full of losers. Do you have a four-oh?”

“A four-oh grade average? No.” I wasn’t sure what my average was. Teachers often referred to me as a student with “a lot of potential.” This meant they expected me to be smart; but in fact my mind was often packing a mental suitcase and wandering off on its own. I sometimes pictured all the things I had learned during the previous week at school jumping into brightly painted railroad cars and disappearing into the distance on a speeding train.

CeeCee scanned the perimeter of the pool, presumably for more-worthwhile people to talk to. The pickings were slim. “So what’s your deal?” she asked. “I don’t really know you. Who are you supposed to be?”

Who was I supposed to be? I was Adrienne Haus. I was fifteen. I lived in West New Hope with my mother, who had signed me up for a summer book club. Now I was reading--or trying to read--a book at the pool.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 20, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I was excited to read this book because of the topic: a book clu

    I was excited to read this book because of the topic: a book club. The four girls brought together by the club belong to different social groups and bring their unique perspectives to the club. I thought that interacting with each other would teach the girls something and bring to light some universal idea. I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing really happens. Even the chapter titled “climax” turns out to be another record of what happens during the summer of the book club.

    While Adrienne writes about each of the girls in the club and even participates in investigations into the girls’ lives, I never really felt like I got to know any of the girls. Adrienne confesses early on that she doesn’t know who she is, and she tries to investigate her past; however, she never clarifies if she figures out the truth. Her relationship with the other girls is the same. She talks to them, but everything feels staged and unreal. The characters’ motivations aren’t clearly defined.

    Much of the book is spent with Adrienne reading the books and discussing what’s happening in the novel before finally mulling over them. I’ve read some of the books, and I don’t want to read a novel discussing the books read in the book club. Outside of books and the clubs, it feels as though the other girls, especially CeeCee, drag Adrienne around. Her only heroic moment is when she spends nine minutes trying to revive a drowning “victim.”

    While teenagers go through times when they don’t know who they are, I want to read a book with a plot—where the characters go through change. The Unbearable Book Club for Unsinkable Girls is a summer read that I won’t be recommending.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    I don't have a lot to say about this book. I'm not even going wr

    I don't have a lot to say about this book. I'm not even going write the title in my review because it's just to long. Anyways, this book started off like any other contemporary book. It was normal. I'm not even sure what the main plot of the book was, other than it having a book club. The main protagonist, Adriennce, is forced to go to a mother-daughter book club with her mom. She meets the other girls there, and they sort of become acquaintances. Their relationship with each other was really weird for me to decipher. Some of the characters really annoyed me. They were bossy, naggy, and just mean.
    I was waiting for something major to get me excited about reading the book, but sadly there was nothing. If there was something, I sure didn't realize it. It felt like I was reading an everyday life book, and to me, even my every day life would be boring to read about. I didn't get the typical message contemporary writers try to convey to the readers.
    I did think about stopping the book and not finish reading it, but it had something that just made me want to know what the ending of the book will be. I do have to say that it had some interesting parts, so I wasn't bored throughout the entire book. I don't know if I might pick up the next book by the author, but if you're a contemporary reader, do give it a try!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 8, 2012

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    Great Summer Read


    This book was a fun, fast read. Very entertaining and engaging. Very funny. The voice of our MC, Adrienne (I can’t help but channel Rocky Balboa’s voice every time I say her name, so, from now on, I’ll refer to her as A like CeeCee does in the book), is sarcastic and witty.
    The main thing I want to know is this, how the heck do I become friends with CeeCee? This character is G.R.E.A.T. Not even kidding. She’s the “queen bee” from school and has decided to honor A with her friendship, even though A doesn’t want it. Her personality is entitled, snooty, snarky, funny, and stuck-up without being a putt-off (hence my friendship request).
    Julie did such a fun and wonderful job making each of the four girls real and complex and deep. Their interaction together over the summer because of the book club is 100% what I remember from my high school days. Even the way they disbanded when it was over natural.
    Wallis is a bit of a creepy yet ambiguous character. I never quite got the feel for her, I thought one thing, but then that never played through. That happened a few times during the story.

    Did I mention I really love CeeCee? Cuz if I didn’t, I do.
    Good descriptions. Funny lines all over the place. Fast-moving plot. Loved, loved, loved this book.
    Great lines:
    • When I turned toward her she smiled a closed-lipped smile, making me think of an alligator sunning itself on a riverbank. (ebook pg 11)
    • If a bear could be trained to talk, I thought, it would sound like Wallis (ebook pg 42)
    • My mouth was a saliva-filled marsh, boggy with pockets of vomit and gin (ebook pg 123)
    • Listening to the noise of the pool in the background—the shouting, the whistling, the general commotion—I thought, I am a lonely person. That’s why I read books. (ebook pg 189)
    A is a great example of strong female character without being strong in the stereotypical sense. Even though she doesn’t know who she is and she’s experimenting, deep down she’s consistent and the same reliable, unbending (constant) person.
    One thing I was unsatisfied with, though, was the fact that Willis kind of felt like a throw away character to me. I mean, I know the mystery of her character was there to push A into discovering deep down who she was, but I also wanted to know about Willis, and we never got that far. I felt a bit cheated, I’ll be honest. We were never given a picture at the end of the book about what actually was going on with Wallis, which, I guess, is okay, but really, I’m not okay with it.
    Okay! What’s my usual disclaimer? That’s right! Pick it up and read it for yourself. :)
    Happy reading, my friends!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Since Adrienne is going to be stuck at home for the summer due t

    Since Adrienne is going to be stuck at home for the summer due to a knee injury instead of canoeing for 6 weeks with her best friend, Liz, her mother makes plans with a fellow mother from yoga class to plan a book club for mothers and daughters. Unfortunately, the daughters don't really know each other or care anything about a book club that would force them to socialize with each other...and their mothers. But the woebegone group do enjoy making up names for their misbegotten group and eventually, through trial, error, trauma and 5 titles chosen from their English 11 AP list, they manage to bond in a completely un-icky way. The book is told in Adrienne's voice, and though she's not smarmy, she still has a meandering-through-a-fifteen-year-old's mind- kind of wit that was enjoyable and sometimes laugh out loud funny. And with its brief studies of each title and the chapters headed with a definition of a literary term, Schumacher's novel could serve as a Lit 101 intro for any teen...or book club.

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