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Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

*Fact of Life #31* by Denise Vega- young adult book review  
Fact of Life #31
by Denise Vega
Grades 9+ 384 pages Laurel Leaf November 2009 Paperback    

You wonít find many teen girls like Kat (KŠtima) Ryan; she does yoga in front of her locker, is training for a triathlon, and works for a midwife who also happens to be her mother. In most other ways, though, sheís very much like her classmates - interested in music, clothes, and that cute guy in her Spanish class.

After her first experience as doula (the midwifeís assistant) turns into disaster, Katís mother shares her own journal recounting her midwife training. It is this journal that inspires Kat to start recording her own thoughts and wisdom, such as Fact of Life #1: ďNEVER assist at a birth again.Ē

Over the course of several months, Katís love life develops when she and that cute guy, Manny, finally open up to each other. Itís a fact, though, that life is always complicated, and romance is a part of life. By unspoken agreement, Kat and Manny keep their relationship a secret, leading to some tense moments with Katís best friend but also to some disturbing revelations about Manny.

There is, of course, the clique that every high school lays claim to, and that girls like Kat must deal with, even if only by ignoring them. When the school jock inexplicably turns friendly toward Kat and the most popular girl in school (who doesnít even register Katís existence) gets chummy with Katís mother, the known facts prove to be inadequate to explain it all. For all the logic of her Facts of Life, Kat has to deal with the messier power of emotions in order to find out what she really wants.

Denise Vega writes with a touch of quirky humor and has built a world of characters that readers will find engaging, complex, and admirable, even when they are not the people we want or expect them to be. You donít often find books for teens that delve into the world of home birth, but the topic is handled gracefully in Fact of Life #31. Sex is discussed and practiced realistically but with subtlety. With midwifery as a central issue, some details of pregnancy and childbirth are inevitable but kept vague. Vega glides over the gory details (ď[she] rolled up the soiled plastic matĒ) and condenses hours of labor to a few paragraphs. This approach is appropriate for a teen novel, but readers who are learning about home births for the first time are hereby advised to research the topic thoroughly before drawing conclusions about the experience.

The overarching theme of development encompasses not only the babies delivered in the course of the story but also the unfolding relationships and personalities of Kat and her friends and family. Vegaís light touch blends it all seamlessly, making Fact of Life #31 a smooth and satisfying read for any age.
Young adult book reviews for ages 12 and up - middle school and high school students

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