This insightful novel about the awkward years between 11 and 14 could make a useful discussion starter for mothers and daughters.
Hundred Percent by Karen Romano Young. Chronicle, 2016, 294 pages
Reading Level: Middle Grades, 10-12
Recommended for: ages 12-15
Does anybody remember what sixth grade is like? Christine Bernadette Gouda (alias Tink) doesn’t remember because she’s in the thick of it: “It was as if there were a circle of people playing Ring around the Rosy and everybody who wasn’t holding hands was outside the ring.” The only person she’s ever holding hands with is Jackie, her best friend forever. But this year Jackie is trying a little too desperately to fit in. As for Tink, she’s suddenly too tall and too sweaty and she can’t do anything with her hair. Alone or with family she likes herself—and there’s plenty to like. She even knows who she is. But at school she’s always losing track of this person everyone calls Tink but who might want to be called something else.
We’ve all been there, though we may not remember clearly enough to understand what our own twelve-year-olds could be going through. The author has a firm grasp of the prickliness, confusion, touchiness and occasional sweetness of a ‘tweener, and she captures their disjointed, self-conscious conversations perfectly. Tink’s greatest asset is her family–even if they don’t always understand her, they provide the stability for her to make this rough passage from childhood to young-adulthood. The narrative is episodic, unfolding over the school year in a way that’s often a bit disjointed and hard to follow. Please note: though not recommended across the board this might be an instructive book for a mother and daughter to read together, with lots of good discussion matter (see questions below) and attitudes that would benefit from an adult perspective.
Cautions: Language (small amount of middle-grade vulgarity: skank, slutty, bazoomas, balls); Worldview (Jackie doesn’t know her dad and her mother has had a series of boyfriends)
Overall rating: 3.75 (out of 5)
- Worldview/moral value: 3.5
- Artistic Value: 4.24
- Why does Tink keep changing her mind about what she would like to be called?
- On page 62 Tink compares herself to a sugar cube, then a pile of loose sugar on a counter top. What do you think she means?
- How do you feel about Jackie? Frustrated, sympathetic, understanding?
- On page 260 Jackie’s mother Bess says, “It’s what I think of myself that matters most.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?