Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, The Voting Booth
on August 7, 2018
Pages: 288 •Goodreads
Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.
Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.
This year at YallWest I was lucky enough to have a chance to meet Brandy Colbert and receive a signed ARC of her newest novel, Finding Yvonne. I’ve been wanting to read a Brandy Colbert novel for a long time, since I’ve heard amazing things about her ballet book, Pointe. I was excited to pick up this quick contemporary novel that drops some major themes in its synopsis and seemed like it wasn’t afraid to confront controversial topics head on.
Finding Yvonne is on the shorter side for a contemporary novel (under 300 pages) but in its pages its able to tell a story that actually covers some really important themes while handling them in a mature and not dramatized way. Yvonne is a protagonist who I felt rather detached to as a reader- I honestly felt like I didn’t really see inside her head and was instead following her around and she was more of a vessel for the issues in the story. Despite this, I think she served an important purpose as a senior in high school who’s struggling to find a purpose and direction for her future after she decides that, though a talented musician, playing the violin is no longer the main passion of her life. The exploration of what it means to give up a hobby that has defined you for so long and feeling like 18 is too young to start something new is something that I think a lot of late highschoolers/early college students will resonate with, and while I didn’t find Yvonne relatable, I did find her struggles to be.
I was surprised when I read the synopsis for this book that it led with a pretty big spoiler- Yvonne finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. It’s a big plot point to lead with, and I found myself surprised by how late it happens in the book. Therefore I wouldn’t call this a pregnancy book at all- rather its one event that makes up the bigger story of Yvonne’s life (which is a refreshing take on pregnancy in YA to be honest). This book was also very sex-positive, which you don’t often find in narratives about teenage pregnancy. There is open talk about contraception, consent, and characters talk (and sometimes argue) about their views on the issue. The open dialogue was refreshing and the book also wasn’t afraid to discuss the options Yvonne had for dealing with her pregnancy, without stigmatizing or sensationalizing any of them.
Another running theme throughout the novel that I was pleasantly surprised played such a large role was that of food. Yvonne’s father is a chef and restaurant owner, she has a sort-of relationship with his sous chef, and she finds solace during her directionless time through starting to bake. I love any books with food/cooking as a theme, and I loved how it was used as a stress reliever and something that comforted Yvonne.
Despite all of the refreshing, frank, and honest elements in this story, my rating was impacted by the fact that the book didn’t really feel like it had a clear plot. I’ve seen other readers refer to it as a “slice of life” novel, and I think that’s a pretty accurate description for it- it sort of feels like I was dropped into the middle of Yvonne’s life as a reader and left before I could really see the extend of her character ARC. The ending events happened very quickly, and I would have preferred the ending had been longer and the beginning paired down a bit, as it was slow for me.
Overall: Finding Yvonne handles a lot of difficult topics in honest ways, which I LOVE to see in YA books. However, its abrupt ending along with a rather distant protagonist and lack of plot let to a lower rating from me.
I really, really enjoyed this one. Like you mentioned, I thought the sex positivity and just the approach to teen pregnancy in general in this book was really refreshing. Plus, I love that this wasn’t solely about Yvonne becoming pregnant and the aftermath; it felt like we got to just be inside her head during one of the most turbulent parts of her life when it feels like everything is changing. I really related to Yvonne kind of falling out of love with music in this book, because HAHA THAT WAS LITERALLY ME MY LAST YEAR OF MUSIC SCHOOL.
Yes it’s such a different type of YA book, you know? It’s quieter and not super plot driven but still REALLY important! I’m honestly bummed I haven’t seen more people talking about this one- I’ve always wanted to try Brandi’s novel Pointe, even more so now that I know I enjoy her storytelling!