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20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2012
Y by Marjorie Celona

Y is a book of contemporary fiction. Released in August 2012 Y follows a young woman's plight in the foster care system from birth to 18years of age. The story is told from the heroine's first person POV but in between we witness her bitter conception and life of her birth parents and what happens when teens, drugs, alcohol and screwed up adults find their way into the body and mind.

Shannon aka Lily aka Shandi aka Samantha aka Jo is the young child in question who was first found by a stranger with `foresight' on the steps of the local YMCA on a small island off Vancouver Canada. Once in the foster care system Shannon begins her young life (following a home birth where her mother knows that if the authorities are involved everyone will end up behind bars). The decision to abandon the baby at the Y is fraught with pain and sorrow, but also one that must be done in order for the child to survive.

Most of the novel is told from Shannon's POV, literally from birth to 18years of age. Her struggles in a system where foster parents are unable to cope, have lives they would otherwise like to lead or who are only in it for the money. Passed from family to family, renamed and renamed, Shannon will embark on a series of families or facilities that are over-whelmed and unaware of the needs of a child in crisis. When Shannon is finally placed with a family willing to help a child with needs, she must incur the wrath of a jealous foster sibling and school system that is unprepared. Here she will remain until the end of the story. But like many in the foster care system, Shannon is restless and will eventually embark on a series of adventures that will bring her face to face with a life on the streets versus a family, who in their own way, has always loved and supported the strange little girl.

On the flip side, the third party narration will follow Shannon's birth mother and her family. This particular part of the storyline shows a side of life that is very familiar to many families-a loveless marriage, drinking, drugs, dementia, death and violence. We are witness to Shannon's parent's tumultuous relationship including the death of a sibling, an aging parent and the loss of freedom. When Shannon finally catches up with the people from her early life, she will quickly realize who her real family has been all along.

Y is a difficult read at times. The foster care system is obviously unprepared, understaffed and underpaid for the vast numbers of clients and children in need of love and care. Y is not a story of perpetual abuse, although there is some as it relates to Shannon and a former couple. Y is a story about one young woman's struggles within the system and `whys' or `Ys' as she endeavors to find the truth about herself. Y is not a feel-good story, but a story that will make you think. How many children are lost within the system and how many children are forgotten?

see all of my reviews at : thereadingcafe.com
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2013
Shannon's life begins at the Y. Abandoned when only hours old she spends her early years in one unsuitable foster home after another, the victim of abuse and unloved. Finally, she finds a home with Miranda and her daughter, and although she is offered stability and a place in a family, Shannon can never settle.

Shannon has so many questions, and they all start with Y. Why was she abandoned on the steps of the YMCA? Why did her Mother do that? And another question; Who are her family?

At the age of sixteen, Shannon decides it is time to find some answers. With the answers, she discovers the truly sad and desperate story of her parents.

Y is very unusually written and follows two narratives, the first being Shannon's own story from her conception through to young Adulthood. The other narrative follows the few days before Shannon's birth, concentrating on her mother Yula (another Y) and the terrible events that lead up to the birth. The first-person narrative of Shannon is often complex and a little difficult to follow, it's quite hard to believe that these are the thoughts of a new-born baby, a toddler, a child and then a young adult.

Don't expect a heart-warming or uplifting story. Y is bleak, very bleak. Shannon is the stereotypical mis-fit child who finds it difficult to interact with anyone of her own age. The brief glimpses of sunshine come only when she meets Vaughn much later in her life. Shannon experiences the very darkest underbelly of society, she feels no self-worth and allows herself to stay a victim for most of her life.

There is no doubt that Majorie Celona is a very talented writer and has created some very strong characters and a very unusual and quite different plot. However, I did struggle to carry on reading in places, the bleakness and sorrow throughout the story impacted on my overall enjoyment of the novel
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Celona has written a no-frills novel of a difficult and painful life, a baby girl abandoned at the doorstep of a Vancouver YMCA, the delivery witnessed by a man who never forgets that image of a young mother leaving her child behind. Perhaps she is hoping her child will have a better life than what she can provide, but Shannon, as the child is eventually named, is haunted by not knowing why she was left behind, unable to make peace with an often unstable existence. The helpless child navigates the uncertainty of the foster child's life, rootless and randomly assigned to one family or another, an opportunity for hardships and abuse. Fortunate to finally be placed in a home where she can remain indefinitely if she chooses, the rebellious Shannon never feels part of Miranda's small family, aware of Lydia-Rose's resentment of another girl to share her room, to share her mother.

Physical appearance contributes to Shannon's distress- although she inhabits her body easily enough over time- frizzy white-blonde hair, a lazy eye, too-wide shoulders, the lack of true identity burrowing into her psyche and fomenting rebellion in a bare bones family unit constricted by poverty but not of affection. As Shannon struggles to find her way in what she views as an indifferent world, Celona segues into the world of her birth mother, Yula, raised in a rural area, a bit wild, drawn into an unhealthy relationship with Shannon's father, a volatile ex-con unable to escape his drug addiction or penchant for extreme behavior. Clearly, Yula's life is fraught with trouble, disadvantages she seeks to mitigate for her child, who deserves a better chance.

The sad histories of Yula and Shannon alternate through the novel, merging finally as Shannon perseveres, tracking the meager threads of her beginning, stubbornly determined until she locates her birth mother. Celona's characters are thoughtfully, achingly wrought, flaws and mistakes accumulated by people living on the edge of survival, little hope to illuminate their dreams or aspirations, yet bound by deeper ties than they realize. You can't go home again- nor really want to- but Shannon may finally learn the real definition of love and family and embrace the gift of gratitude. Luan Gaines/2012.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2013
Marjorie Celona's Y:A Novel is simultaneously jostling, sad, and hopeful.

Shannon tells both her story, and the story of her parents and her birth. The alternation between Shannon's current life and the time leading up to her birth works well, and I wasn't sure it would when I first started reading the book. Shannon is definitely precocious, and it is a little disjointing to have a sometimes very adult story told by a child so wise beyond her years.

I started the book with a little trepidation- whatever it was I read that made me order the book led me to think I would find it heartbreaking and sad. Parts of it were indeed heartbreaking, particularly the story of little Eugene. I don't think, however, it vilifies the foster care system the way the preview of the book that I read made it sound like it would. It seems like the system itself did a reasonably good job for Shannon within the parameters they have. It does show a need for continued reform, better vetting of foster parents, and more support for children in the system.

Here's the thing. Through much of the book, I was ambivalent about Shannon. I felt sorry for her in many respects, but I also got exasperated with her sometimes. That being said, I believe Shannon's actions are largely, though not completely, justified by the turmoil she feels from knowing she was abandoned and struggling to find a sense of belonging and permanence. By the end of the book, though, I felt satisfied. I felt like Shannon would be OK, that she would go on to a reasonably good and stable life. Given her start, that may be enough to hope for.

For a debut novel, I think Celona did a wonderful job. She gave us flawed characters in a desperate situation. No real villains, but tragic people making bad decisions and living with the consequences. While at best a mutedly happy read, I do call Y: A Novel wholly satisfying.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 2, 2013
Y is about a very confused, slightly troubled teen girl named Shannon. To sum briefly: Shannon's young mother Yula leaves Shannon on the door step of the YMCA in hopes that she will have a better life. We go back and forth in time, 18 years between Yula and Shannon herself. Shannon's childhood is not pleasant for the first 5 years in the foster care system. However, when Shannon is 5, she finally gets a real family even though it may take her whole childhood to realize it.

Another reviewer wrote that it bothered them that Shannon was so quiet in all her emotions. While it's true she did not scream and shout--I did not feel this when I was reading it. The imagery was very strong. However, what kept me from giving it 5 stars were the following loose ends:

Was Julian, Shannon's second foster father molesting Shannon during the beating she can't remember? The book mentions some peculiar behavior between the two.
And what happened with Shannon's permanent foster mother and the mother's sister which made them estranged?

Overall a good read. And the writer may have wanted to leave loose ends but I feel like in this case, she could have given us a little more. I like it that Y is for YMCA and Yula. Y indeed!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 10, 2013
A most unusual take on an old story - new born baby Shannon is left by her young mother outside the Y and bounces through various foster placements until being adopted by Miranda, a single mother with a daughter, Lydia-Rose. The narrative, written in the present tense, alternates between Shannon who is watching the action and reporting on it in the first person from her earliest days to a third person narrative when the story switches to an account of her mother's life.

Set in Canada, this story is full of the pain of an adopted child and her search for roots and identity. Shannon, however, is not the only lost soul and the narrative is driven by sadness, loss and displacement. In spite of this it is not a depressing read but an absolutely oonvincing version of a reality lived by many in our fragmented society.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2013
A bit disappointed with this one. I thought from reading the summary it sounded really interesting but it just seemed to lack for me. I thought in the beginning there were quite a few characters introduced so close together that at times I had a hard time remembering who all was who. I did like that the author went back and forth on perspective from womb baby to child. But when I would stop and pick the book back up I had a hard time telling who's perspective I had left off on and would have to go back a little. Just a different style of writing to get used to.
But I did like once Shannon's answers were all being answered for her and I thought it was interesting to have her story explained the way it was.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The lovely Jennifer over at The Relentless Reader and I did a little book trade. I sent her The Round House by Louise Erdrich, and she sent me Y by Marjorie Celona.

I was excited about this book for two reasons:

Reason 1: I need a book that starts with a Y for my A-Z Book Challenge, so this satisfies that criteria.
Reason 2: Jennifer made the book sound really good so I wanted to read it anyway! Here's Jennifer's review of Y.
Y is a book about Shannon, a girl who was left by her mother in front of the YMCA on the day she was born. While under the age of five, Shannon proceeds through multiple foster homes, many of which are not so pleasant, some where she's abused, until she finds a healthy home with Miranda and her daughter.

But Shannon just isn't dealing with life all that well. She feels lost, broken, and has no idea who she is. Will a convoluted search for her mother and father yield any results? And if so, will they make Shannon a happier person?

I definitely enjoyed reading Y. I think that Marjorie Celona did a great job with making Shannon seem like a realistic example of a troubled, adopted child.

At the same time, most alternating chapters are relaying what was going on with Shannon's parents, Yula and Harrison, so we get a well-rounded view of the entire story. Shannon actually is telling the parts about Yula and Harrison to the reader, which is a unique take and makes the reading interesting.

I think Y was a great novel, one that had depth but was easy to comprehend. It also explored how family can be more than just those related to you by blood, it can be found in those around you who care.

Now the book will do some more traveling, over to my friend Allison at The Book Wheel!

Do you have any books that have done any traveling like this recently?

Thanks for reading,

Rebecca @ Love at First Book
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2013
For the first sixteen years of her life, Shannon never knew her parents. Left by her mother on the steps of a YMCA just hours after her birth, the young girl's abandonment is witnessed by only one man. Her destiny remained bleak and uncertain as she was shuffled through foster homes, her name altered and her childhood a blur. Y is the captivating story of Shannon's plight to come to terms with the hand she's been dealt. It's a remarkable narrative on life and the perpetual question of "why", examining what drives us to make life-altering decisions. The novel follows Shannon as she finally finds a permanent home with a strong-willed single mother, struggles with the weight of her little life, and eventually commits to the decision to find her parents. The biggest danger becomes whether her search will uncover things best left alone. Alternating between Shannon's young life and the story of her mother, Yula, the novel delves into the bond between mothers and daughters, and the unforeseeable connections they share.

Marjorie Celona's debut is a stunning work, hauntingly paced and meticulously crafted. There's a self-certainty to her prose that leaves a profound mark on the reader, and her wonderful, sad, enchanting young heroine only amplifies the significance of the story. Shannon is remarkable in every way, the sort of character that will leave a lasting impression on the reader. At times bitterly sad, other times charmingly witty, Shannon's narrative holds the reader in an unflinching, riveted curiosity. With wisdom and sarcasm well beyond her age, she examines her life as well as her mother's, the events that led to her birth and the many heart-rending fragments afterward, all dogged by the same daunting question: why? From her relationship with her adoptive sister to an ill-advised attempt to run away, Shannon dissects her life decisions with extraordinary insight and honesty. She becomes a friend to the reader, somewhat distant but all heart, as her story is explored, intertwined with the fateful plight of her pregnant eighteen year-old mother, sixteen years in the past.

I was moved, quieted, and deeply fascinated by Y and Celona's beautiful writing; this is a writer whose career I look forward to following. The boldness with which she conceived her story is utterly admirable, as is the fearlessness with which she handled several unhappy topics. Everything about Y manages a chilling but brilliant picture in the reader's mind, and Celona softens all of the book's supporting characters just enough for the astonishing mind of Shannon to come into its full glory at the novel's center. The Canadian backdrop of both city and wilderness are depicted with both a subtle grace and impacting detail that illuminates every corner of the novel. Y is, as a result, an affecting story and a striking example of the art of literature at its finest.

(Review © Casee Marie, originally published on January 11, 2013 at LiteraryInklings.com. I received a copy of the book for the purpose of review.)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 8, 2013
Y by Marjorie Celona is another one of those books that was recommended to me by Rebecca at Love at First Book, who read it upon the recommendation of Jennifer at The Relentless Reader. I was looking forward to reading it until I read on the back of the book that fans of White Oleander would love it. You see, White Oleander is the only book I have put down after reading 1/3 of it in the past decade. Call me crazy, but I hated that book. I tried to watch the movie and only made it in to about the same point that I made it into the book. So, when I read that comparison, I hesitated. As the third book blogger to come into possession of this exact copy, however, I felt that I should at least give it a chance. And I must say, Rebecca was right. The book was fantastic.

It centers around a girl named Shannon who is left as a newborn at the YMCA and follows her throughout her childhood and teenage years. From foster care to adoption, Shannon struggles to belong and her story is, at times, heartbreaking. I'm not sure whether the author was adopted, but she does a fantastic job of getting into the mind of a young girl searching for who she is and where she came from.

As the story progressed, I became concerned that the author would take the predictable route but was pleasantly surprised by the direction she took. It is not at all cliché and that adds to the depth and realistic tone of the story. This is a great book for all ages, but especially for anyone (adult or teen) who has been adopted and struggled with their identity.
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