My Life in Black and White – Natasha Friend
Natasha Friend is a librarian’s dream author. She writes Y.A. lit with an authentic teen voice addressing authentic teen issues, and readers and non-readers alike gobble up her books. Her first novel, Perfect, tackles eating disorders; follow-up Lush, as you can perhaps guess from the title, addresses alcoholism; Bounce is about a girl forced to contend with her newly blended stepfamily and move to a new place; and For Keeps takes on a girl meeting the father she never knew and a boy who might become her first serious boyfriend.
In My Life in Black and White, Lexi has it all – beauty, good grades, a position as co-captain of the girls’ field hockey team, control of the center (aka popular kids) table in the cafeteria, a cute football player boyfriend who loves her, and by her side through it all, her bff Taylor. Lexi may have the looks, but Taylor has the money and together they have big plans to dominate high school in 10th grade just as they did their junior high school in 9th. With Taylor’s parents out of town, Taylor and her football player brother Jarrod throw a back-to-school party – kegger, red Solo cups, and all. Lexi closely monitors how much she drinks, but eager-to-impress Taylor keeps knocking ‘em back…until she goes missing. Concerned Taylor might be yakking her guts out, Lexi goes searching through the house for her only to discover Taylor in her parents’ bedroom giving a Lewinski to Lexi’s boyfriend, Ryan. Awwwkward. Stunned, heartbroken and furious, Lexi lets them both have it before storming out of the house and getting Jarrod to give her a ride home. Unfortunately, something happens to cause Jarrod to lose control of the car, crashing it into a tree where Lexi is thrown through the windshield, one side of her face ripped apart.
In true teenage fashion, Lexi spends her first few days in the hospital more preoccupied with the betrayal of her best friend and boyfriend. It isn’t until the doctors remove her bandages and she sees herself in the mirror for the first time that Lexi realizes the true horror of what’s happened to her. Because she had a hole in her cheek, the doctors had to graft skin from her butt onto her face, literally making her - as Lexi deems herself - a buttface. The right side of her face now looks like a patchwork quilt. Gutted and bitter, Lexi returns home with her parents and older sister angry that life could treat her so cruelly.
As Friend does so well, her main characters are in no way saints – Lexi veers to the bratty, was self-absorbed before the accident and is even more-so now, and wallows for several weeks in her pity party of one – but the reader still likes her and can identify with the pain she is going through both physically and emotionally. At first, she refuses to attend school, begging her parents to homeschool her, but when she does decide to brave it and go, she quickly learns who her real friends are...and there aren't many. Lexi responds by becoming the opposite of the girl she was pre-accident - whacking off her shiny, long blonde hair, trading her mini-skirts and midriff shirts for hoodies, and keeping completely to herself. Friend also does a nice job of fleshing out the peripheral characters, particularly Lexi’s sister Ruthie who, though very different from her sister – Ruthie’s a nerdy, pimply band geek – proves to be a good listener and provides advice Lexi needs to hear rather than what she wants to hear. As it turns out, there’s a big secret as to what exactly caused Jarrod to wreck his car, just as the circumstances behind Taylor and Ryan’s hook-up isn’t all that it seems –as the title indicates, life isn’t always so black and white as we’d like it to be.
Readers who liked Friend’s previous offerings will not be disappointed, while readers who haven’t yet been introduced to her books might read this and then go back and read the others. While Friend’s earlier books were suitable for middle school, the sexual content in My Life in Black and White is a bit more explicit so while it’s reviewed ages 12 and up, consider your individual school climate. To learn more about Friend and her books, visit her official website at http://www.natashafriend.com .