before, after, and somebody in between by jeannine garsee
Please read this for more input/discussion. Could be a top 20 contender.
I would place this higher than many "problem" novels on the TU scale. Better than The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance, but with similar themes, drunken mother, young teen fending for herself, adults not coming through, adults who do come through for Martha, poverty, a struggle for survival, (misplaced?) loyalty to neglecting parent.
Sometimes Martha won't let herself follow her passion of playing the cello. She fights against and at the same time internalizes her mother's messages of worthlessness and hopelessness.
Martha's transformation has some echoes akin to Twisted. It is a tough book, not a light read, but certainly a high "B" list contender for the top 20.
A few things niggled in my brain - is a cello light enough for a 14 year old to lug with her backpack 30 blocks ti school? So I looked it up. A weighs roughly 5 pounds + case (7-15 pounds). So not super heavy, but bulky. Some people won't walk 1/4 mile, so 30 blocks to a suburbanite/small town person seems a far distance even without the weight and bulk of a cello in a case.
Jerome's transformation at the end seemed really abrupt, but I suppose that was Martha's experience of it, so we had the same experience. I didn't see how he abandoned her like she felt from that brief interchange.
I was angry/irritated with Martha covering for her mom and Wayne and some of the ugly things that went on, but the Alanon meetings identified and addressed that behavior as "normal" and gave some alternatives to break the destructive cycle. I was glad Garsee had Martha start taking matters into her own hands (sort of round-a-bout)
A child's craving for attention, love, survival, reactions from fear, and the power of reaching out to someone else make this a powerful debut novel.