This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn

This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn

4.3 21
by Aidan Chambers

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“The masterpiece of one of young-adult literature’s greatest living writers.”—Booklist, starred review

Using a pillow book as her form, nineteen-year-old Cordelia Kenn sets out to write her life for her unborn daughter. What emerges is a portrait of an extraordinary girl who writes frankly of love, sex, poetry, nature, and, most of

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“The masterpiece of one of young-adult literature’s greatest living writers.”—Booklist, starred review

Using a pillow book as her form, nineteen-year-old Cordelia Kenn sets out to write her life for her unborn daughter. What emerges is a portrait of an extraordinary girl who writes frankly of love, sex, poetry, nature, and, most of all, of herself in the world. As she attempts to capture “all” of herself on paper, Cordelia maddens, fascinates, and ultimately seduces the reader in this tour de force from a writer who has helped redefine literature for young adults. A book not to be missed by any serious reader.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
While waiting for her baby to arrive, 19-year-old Cordelia Kenn constructs a pillow book, a collection of writings on various topics, "a portrait of myself as a teenager." She hopes that when her daughter (she knows it's a girl) turns 16, the two can read the book together, to "find out how similar we are and how different." After a brief introduction, Cordelia begins recounting her experiences from three months before her 16th birthday, when she selects 18-year-old William Blacklin as her first boyfriend for "all-out, all-in-all, all-the-way-sex," prompted by a magazine article stating that "the average age when girls... `lost their virginity' was sixteen years and three months." Chambers (Postcards from No Man's Land) starts with a promising premise: the tender relationship that grows between Will and Cordelia. The ensuing discussions (between Cordelia and Will, and also between Cordelia and her aunt) about first love and the role sex plays in a relationship provides much food for thought. However, this 800-page tome starts to ramble after about 200 pages, and may cause readers to lose interest in Cordelia's ruminations. Her narration chronicles her sexual history not only with Will, but with a 50-year-old man, plus her kidnapping and attempted rape by an acquaintance. Readers may well ask why, out of the myriad experiences a teen may wish to record for posterity with the express idea of sharing it with her child, would the heroine choose to focus almost exclusively on her sexual experiences. Ages 16-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Florence H. Munat
As the title suggests, this volume is a compilation of thoughts, actions, and reflections of Cordelia Kenn, from age fifteen when she falls in love with Will Blacklin until she is almost twenty and pregnant. Inspired by the thousand-year-old Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, a gift from her best friend Izumi, Cordelia combines her writings from this period with words addressed to her unborn daughter. She plans to give this pillow book to her daughter on her sixteenth birthday. Much of the novel describes her relationship with Will-from awkward teenagers playing Schumann's pieces for piano and oboe, to tender lovers, to their devastating break-up after Will goes to college, to their reunion and decision to live together. But there is also much about her relationships with her widowed father, her maternal aunt Doris, Will's gay friend Ariel, her thirty-year-old married employer with whom she has a disastrous affair, a female teacher who becomes her best friend, and others. Sections of the book contain Cordelia's ruminations on meditation, religion, masturbation, worrying, and more. Book Two (The Green Pillow Box) assumes an unusual format: The narrative continues on the right-hand page (marked "b" under each page number), while the left-hand pages ("a") contain a collection of stories, poems, lists, and reflections by Cordelia, which are only peripherally related to the plot. Thus, to follow the story line, one reads the "b" pages only. This odd structure is not easy to figure out and might deter readers or cause some to quit. If there is a book that presents a more comprehensive picture of a teenaged girl's psyche-with its inherent confusions, conflicts, insights, maturities, andimmaturities-this reviewer has not found it. Cordelia is smart, funny, wise, compassionate, talented-and fearful, willful, childish, exasperating, inexperienced. Chambers is masterful at getting inside a young girl's head and exploring her life. The story never hits a false note as it details the conflicted nature of adolescence. This lengthy book will attract older teens seeking a leisurely, rewarding read.
Children's Literature - Elisabeth Greenberg
Cordelia Kenn's engaging voice leaps right into your brain, capturing all the focus and contradiction of adolescence. Intimate and revelatory, her narrative to her unborn child plays with words and concepts as she picks through the minefield of her life from fifteen to nineteen, showing just how and when and why her child was conceived. The first section of the book covers Cordelia's decision to lose her virginity before the "average" sixteen years and three months cited in a newspaper. She carefully targets her boy-man and entices him with a request to practice an oboe-piano duet. Then she is overtaken with sheer love � or is it lust? Together Cordelia and William Blacklin discover honesty and truth, love, passion, ritual, ceremony, and the delights of a sexual relationship. Laced with Cordelia's own private writings (Cordelia's Mopes) and excerpts from Japanese poetry and pillow books, this complex book works on many levels--plot, psychology, language, humor, passion, poetry--to engage adolescent readers who are themselves figuring out who they are and who they want to become. This book would work well in a mother/daughter book club to assist in addressing a thoughtful transition to sexual maturity, but will most likely be read by girls on their own. It is labeled "for the mature reader" and has been marketed to adults as well as adolescents.
School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up-Cordelia Kenn is 19 and happily expecting a baby girl. She writes a series of pillow books-Japanese diaries of total disclosure-to her unborn daughter. First, she describes her courtship with Will, her first love. The lengthy second book tells two stories, one on every other page. The remaining books describe her affair with a married man, an intimate friendship with a female teacher, and her reunion with her beloved. Cordelia writes of her life and desires with thrilling abandon and unabashed sexuality, and her first book-with its breathless pace, come-hither conversation, and chase and catch-is a whirling, delicious sex bomb. The form of the second book is jarring and infuriating if read in sequence, yet it's too disheartening, in a book of this size, to read one story and turn back 200 pages for the other. The real challenge for teens, though, is pages and pages of Cordelia's bad poetry and precious, banal, and often crushingly boring musings. Chambers's male characters are perfectly realized, and he hits bright, insecure Will right on the familiar, frustrating male teenage head. Unfortunately, Cordelia reeks of male fantasy, and Chambers's strings are evident as she and a friend write on each other and roll around naked; as she purports to love menstruation; as she expounds upon breasts ad nauseum. By the last third of the novel, even the formerly crisp dialogue often sounds like philosophical discourse. Cordelia's excruciating musings continue to intrude upon her last three books, and the electric promise of the first section is never fulfilled.-Johanna Lewis, New York Public Library Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
With profound respect for readers, Chambers again stretches the YA genre to its edges and beyond. As a future gift to her almost-born daughter, Cordelia records the stormy, passionate story of her life from age 15 to 20 in the form of Japanese "pillow books." She's a great fan of Shakespeare and Dickinson; her own voice is philosophical and meaty, cerebral and emotional. She intellectually chooses schoolmate Will as partner for her "first sex" but falls head-over-heels in love with him, and here lies the story's heart. Chambers makes Cordelia utterly frank about sexual and biological details. Other arcs include Cordelia's enigmatic bond with a teacher (never fully graspable), her musings about the roles of poetry and piano in her life, and Will's passion for trees. Some reflections are written directly after an event, others with years of perspective; it is these years, not always identifiable, that render the piece a YA/adult crossover. Characters are intricate and sometimes infuriating, moments of horror stunning and unforeshadowed. Ambitious, imperfect, challenging and powerfully affecting. (Fiction. YA)

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Product Details

Abrams, Harry N., Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.25(w) x 8.50(h) x 2.13(d)
900L (what's this?)
Age Range:
13 Years

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This Is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous 3 months ago
This book is the best book of my life. I actually have 2 copies because I reread it so much. The characters are so real and relatable. This is a must read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved the way this book was written where it was a collection of her diary like entries and poems and how it all came together to describe the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I normally don't cry while reading books. I think one of the few times I did cry was when Sirius died in Harry Potter. This book made me cry. I relate to Cordelia so much. She reminded me so much of myself that the ending made me cry all the more. I found it hard to believe that this book, about a teenage girl, was written by a man. Chamber's in depth view of the teenage girl's psyche was amazing. Cordelia is very real and what she thinks, feels, sees and does are very real as well. This book will probably be a favorite of mine for a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
i adored this book. it really makes you think. cordelia is the most real character i have ever read. she truly comes off the page. i felt like she was someone i saw everyday and had known my whole life, i even had dreams about her. this book really encompasses everything it means to grow up. cordelia's growth is so natural and organic, you really grow along with her. this is a book about what it means to be a woman, what it means to be in love, but most of all what it means to be human. i highly recommend this book for it's beautiful depth and clarity.
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MaryReade More than 1 year ago
I am not an openly emotional person. Books, movies, songs... they don't make me cry. This book did. I bawled my eyes out. After I got this book, I read it nonstop. It was my constant companion. I'd carry it around with me and bump into things, but I kept reading. I loved almost every word of it. It was funny, frustrating, amazing, uplifting, and heartbreaking, all in one. This is one of the best books I have ever read. <3
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Omg!!! This is an absolutely amazing book. If you are currently reading it and bored to death, don't get discouraged, you can't truely love it until you finish it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have only cried from 2 books in my life. Those 2 books I have never connected to like I did this one. I felt like this girl, was apart of me. The way it was written was so, expressive, so intriguing that I could NOT put it down. The beginning was slow, but i read on knowing it would be a good book. What I didn't expect was loving a book to death.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book!!! My teenage daughter asked me to read this book and I can say it has changed life in many ways!!! Definately spiritually awesome and realistic. Thank You Aidan Chambers for bringing my daughter and I even closer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is absolutely my favorite book! Cordelia is a deep person who really understands the world and writes amazing poems. Her love for Will is very personal. She describes the world around her and what her view on it is. I would recomend it to people 14 and up because it is very descriptive. Read it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
i couldn't believe how easily i related to cordelia, especially when i found out the author's relatively old and a man! i loved her poetry, and she had some really great philosophical musings. just one thing... towards the middle, there's a confusing part where the book splits. i read the a part first then the b part, and it made it easier.