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Nina: Adolescence Hardcover – June 2, 2003


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

First-time author Hassinger excels at describing the title character's "limited and limiting" adolescent mind, but stage and screen actress Barron (Guiding Light; Amy Rules) truly brings this troubled character to life in this eerily seductive narrative. Told from the perspective of Nina Begley, who was with her younger brother when he drowned, the novel tracks the unraveling of a family. After the accident, Nina's father turns to drink and her artist mother, Marion, shutters herself in her room. To draw her mother out, Nina offers to pose for a painting and doesn't even balk when Marion asks her to pose nude. Hassinger perfectly captures the guilt and thirst for affection that compels Nina to pose nude and, eventually, to attend an art exhibit featuring her own adolescent body. Barron's vocal talents shine here, as well. Though she narrates the story in soft, muted tones, her voice takes on all the uncertainty and rebelliousness of youth when teenage Nina strikes back at her narcissistic mother by having a secret affair with Marion's 30-something ex-beau. All in all, Barron's skilled, sensitive telling nicely compliments Barron's expressive prose, making this an exceptional audio adaptation.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Audio Cassette edition.

From Booklist

After her younger brother drowned, Nina tried to pull her artist mother, Marian, out of her grief by offering to pose for a painting. Marian gradually became obsessed with chronicling Nina's emerging adolescent body in a series of nude portraits, and the paintings have become a success, earning Marian the notoriety she's yearned for. Now, at 15, Nina is embarrassed that her changing body is on view to the public. "They're seeing art, not porn," insists her mother, but Nina's father worries about "sexual predators." Hassinger's first novel explores these two provocative viewpoints through the intimate story of a family's unraveling. Nina is thrilled and disturbed by Leo, a thirtysomething art critic, and even after she learns about his secret history with her mother, Nina is coaxed into an affair with him. Hassinger makes Nina's loss of innocence and plunge into self-destruction chillingly believable. Her graceful, observant prose beautifully captures Nina's inner world--her guilt, yearning, anger, desire, and joy--while ruthlessly skewering the narcissism of ambitious adults. An unsettling and acutely sensitive debut. Gillian Engberg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (June 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399150625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399150623
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #672,255 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Amy Hassinger is the author of two novels. Deemed "superb" by O, the Oprah Magazine and "truly penetrating" by Salon.com, Nina: Adolescence (Putnam 2003) was translated into Dutch and Portuguese, won a Publisher's Weekly Listen Up! Award and was selected as Audio Book of the Year by ForeWord Magazine. A May 2006 Book Sense Notable pick, The Priest's Madonna (Putnam 2006) was translated into Dutch, Spanish, Russian, and Indonesian. Her writing has won awards from venues including Creative Nonfiction, Publisher's Weekly, and the Illinois Arts Council, and she has published work in magazines including Creative Nonfiction, The Writers' Chronicle, and The Los Angeles Review of Books. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and teaches in the University of Nebraska's MFA in Writing Program. You can find out more about her at www.amyhassinger.com.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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80%
4 star
13%
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1 star
7%
See all 15 customer reviews
The writing has a wonderful pace and lightness of touch.
Nicola Bowler
This is a story with a lot of twists and is quite different than anything that I have read in a very long time.
Barbara
I picked up this book years ago and just got around to reading it.
Rossana Snee

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 13, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I prefer to read than write so this is my first review on Amazon. However, my teenage daughter and I both finished Nina Adolescence and felt this new book merited a review so other people would be sure to read this book. The book was a fairly quick read, but the characters and emotion of the book remained with me. It is because the descriptions are powerfully realistic. The characters, while not too admirable were very real. I could imagine these people living in their Boston suburb, flirting with the urban art scene, searching for their own identities, and struggling with the emotions of parenting....the death of one child and the loss of the other to adulthood.
The author is perceptive and convincingly conveys the varied emotions surrounding growing up. While the story is told from Nina's perspective, Hassinger is sensitive to the emotions of the other characters. Even though Nina may not understand what they are feeling, the reader can see the complexity in their emotions and their lives. Hassinger's style and power are impressive. I've recommended this book to a number of friends and it has generated good, thoughtful discussion.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Adolescence is hard enough--without your mother documenting every physical change you undergo, let alone naming you the nude subject of her art. This is just what Nina, the protagonist of Amy Hassinger's novel, Nina:Adolescence, must endure after her four-year-old brother, Dylan, suddenly drowns one afternoon in the pond behind their suburban-Boston home. Depressed and lonely after her son's death, Nina's mother finds refuge in her art, painting nude portraits of Nina and devoting her entire self to capturing the changes in her daughter: the rounding thighs, budding breasts, curving hip bones. Meanwhile, Nina is becoming more aware of her own sexuality, abetted by a cast of characters including Raissa, a friend from dance class, and her mother's old friend, Leo, an art critic with dubious intentions. A dancer, both conscious of her body and uncomfortable with her burgeoning sexuality, Nina must publicly deal with these changes as her mother wins praise for her haunting portraits.
In careful, exact prose, Amy Hassinger eloquently captures the delicacy of adolescence pulls off a compelling coming of age novel. What distinguishes this work is the humanity with which Hassinger writes--the way she understands and nurtures her characters. Instead of exploiting Dylan's death as a less polished writer might, Hassinger organically evokes the memory of his drowning as it was: quick, sudden, and still confusing after four years; his memory haunts the family like the portraits do all those who look upon them. This is an excellent book by an author whose voice I would follow anywhere.
Nina is a true piece of literary fiction that explores the themes of growing up, love, and family that are relevant to us all. I am an avid reader and this is one of the best books I have read in a LONG time. Do yourself a favor and buy this book TODAY!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Dan on November 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Remember when your English teacher told you that the mark of a really good piece of writing was when the language was so masterfully employed as to be utterly beautiful and at the same time completely transparent, throwing the story into hyper-real relief without calling attention to itself? Your teacher was referring to Nina: Adolescence.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 25, 2003
Format: Audio Cassette
I could not stop listening to this book! any audio book fan would enjoy this production. Mia Barron (the narrator)does an excellent job--especially with the interaction between the two teenage girls- Nina & her friend Riassa. It will remind you of your teenage years!
Great author, great story, even better on tape!
(aren't they always though!)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nicola Bowler on July 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This novel deals beautifully with a fascinating and challenging subject - the female teenage years. At times the writing in 'Nina: Adolescence' transports me into Nina's very thoughts and circumstances. Amazing. The writing has a wonderful pace and lightness of touch. Don't miss out.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Nina: Adolescence" is a character study, with intense focus on a modern family trying to survive a horrible tragedy. Nina experiences adolescence scarred from the death of her young brother. He was only four years old when he drowns in the backyard pond while under her watch, and she, at the age of 11, becomes the only child of damaged parents. In their grief, her mother--a painter--turns inward, while her father turns to the whiskey bottle. We learn the marriage was rocky before their son's death, and we also learn that Nina tries to bring her mother out of her depression by posing nude for a series of paintings. The posing and painting process works to bring mother and daughter together, although it alienates the father.

The paintings are shown at a Boston gallery and are breakthrough work for her mother's art career. And once the paintings are displayed and admired, a "creep factor" seeps into their world and into the story. It's one thing to read about typical, self-loathing body image of a teenager as she develops, it's another still to imagine it on display for the world to see, and to purchase. I refer to the keynote painting of the exhibit, "Nina: Adolescence."

Minor characters are few but also well developed. Raissa, Nina's only friend, who she meets in dance class, brings a spark to Nina's life. And then there's Leo--an absolute predator--who takes the story in such a repelling and sad direction, it almost became unbearable to read. If it weren't for the truly excellent writing and the power to bring out such strong emotion in me, I might not have finished this book. This is a disciplined and talented writer, with elegant descriptions. One is pulled through the story with great ease, in spite of the grim subject and the suffering characters.

From the author of "A Line Between Friends," McKenna Publishing Group.
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