Friday, December 7, 2012

Review & Giveaway (My First!): Confessions of Joan The Tall (Joan Cusack Handler)

I confess...I get excited when I get to be part of blogger-based events.  This is my second time as part of a "TLC Book Tours" and I want to welcome anyone who stumbled on my little corner of the internet from the group. 

This coming-of-age memoir is written in the voice of the author at age 11.  It takes the form of a journal and often feels more "spoken" than written (although, in true tween-style, Joan capitalizes and underlines for feeling and emphasis).  Joan is trying to reconcile Catholic teachings and traditions with the expanding social world of an adolescent.  She worries a lot about sin and her soul as well as about pleasing her father, whom she idolizes.  Joan's well-meaning mother tries to help her fit in socially, often through clothes.  Joan also has three siblings: a teen sister whose popularity Joan envies, a close-in-age brother who torments her, and a younger brother who is less-developed and seems to be the child at the "before" end of the adolescent spectrum.  Joan struggles a lot socially, in part because of her 5'11.5" frame and also because of a number of health woes (some likely tied to stress).

When I was approached to review this book, I asked the "tour" organizer if the book would resonate with someone who is not only not Catholic but who was raised without any real formal religion.  She confirmed that they wanted a broad range of readers.  While nothing closed the book off, I do think it would resonate more with a reader who shared the Catholic (or at least religious) upbringing.  I couldn't really relate to Joan's worrying about the fate of her soul and her concern about sin.  I do understand the desire to "be good," but it definitely went beyond my experience.  While I enjoy reading about people who lead different lives, the book really did depend on relating to the narrator and the difference made it less engrossing and made me less excited to pick up the book and return to Joan's world.

That said, there were certainly plenty of concerns I could relate to in Joan's year and also plenty of places where she made me smile.  I was never tall, but I think every adolescent feels like they stick out physically and worries over any form of difference.  I felt for Joan in her social stumblings and desire to fit in.  When the experience resonated, I could feel the particular angst of adolescence.  I also felt Joan's joy in simple triumphs and in the few moments when self-confidence began to peek through the doubt.  Joan's voice stayed consistent and genuine, more true to the age than most writers are able to stay. 

This wasn't a complete "win" for me, I'd give it three stars, but I'm glad I got to "meet" Joan and spend time with her.  I think this book would be ideal for someone who came from a very religious background and remembers reconciling that with the concerns of adolescence.  I could also see it being an interesting read for a mother and daughter to share as the girl moves into her teen years. 
The folks at TLC Book Tours have given me the nod to offer a copy of Confessions of Joan the Tall to one of my readers.  To enter, please comment on this post with your first name and your state.  If you aren't someone I know offline, I'd love to also know how you stumbled on the blog. 

I'll announce a winner (using a random number generator to pick) on Friday December 14th.  Check back here to see if you win (or leave your email address in the text of the comment and I'll notify you if you win...I can't always seem to get Blogger to tell me commenter email addresses). 

For the full list of blog tour stops and more information on the book and its author, see the TLC Book Tours website.


Lauren Starks said...

Lauren, Georgia.

Surprised you didn't end contest on 13th. Like a reverse birthday for you, or something :)

Finesse said...

Beth in Pennsylvania

This sounds like something my 10yo, diabetic, bookworm of a niece would enjoy.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm glad you got to "meet" Joan as well!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

traveler said...

I would love this memoir since it reflects a time that I know well.
New Mexico

Annabelle said...

Annabelle, Massachusetts! Fun to have your first giveaway.

triciaandersen said...

Tricia -Iowa. Yay on your first giveaway!