, Research Paper
SUMMER READING PROJECT BOOK PROPOSEL
Title: When She Was Good
Author: Norma Fox Mazer
Brief Description: I didn’t believe Pamela would ever die.” Opening with that sentence, this is an initially desolate tale of a girl, Em, who survives the dominance and death of her frighteningly mentally ill older sister. Pamela is crude, cruel, and reeking with sweat and hostility; most of Em’s life has been spent placating her. When their mother dies and their father marries another woman, Pamela takes Em away to the city where the older girl sits and watches TV while growing obscenely fat, and the younger one-at four-teen-tries to find work to support them both. The book begins just after Pamela’s death and then flashes back to their miserable family life in a trailer and the girls’ escape. Although we become privy to a couple of moments of true sisterhood between the girls, Pamela is pretty much fully monstrous and Em a victim, aware of the power her sister wields but only able to defend herself against it in small, ineffectual rebellions. Told by Em, the story delineates her pain with careful spareness, and while the abuse and indignities become somewhat repetitive, their overwhelming relentlessness conveys the weight of Pamela’s power. The book is at its best when showing Em’s tentative grasping for a new life of her own after Pamela’s death, when her dignity and hope begin to assert themselves and our feelings change from pity to respect.
Why it s a good choice : This book is a sort of contrast from the books read during the school year. The books read were about characters with excess pride, which in time led to their downfall of everything they had including themselves. In When She Was Good , Em starts out with a horrific life, she was vulnerable and needy. In the outcome, Em learns to have respect in herself, which is a 180 to most of the stories throughout the year.
How I found this book: It was voted in 1998 for the best teen age book by The New York Public Library, Office of Young Adult Services so I looked it up on Amazon and there was a bunch good reviews.