Balancing Act

In the 1970s, outside the town of Mahone Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, Barbara Ann is thirteen, going into grade seven and starting a new school.

She wants what most other teenage girls want: the right hair, the right clothes, the right friends, the right boyfriend, and everything else that leads to love and happiness.

Innocence allows her to believe it’s all easily within her grasp, with the only obstacle being her over-controlling mother.

She fights and pushes against boundaries to gain the freedom she wants.

Each step a power struggle between mother and daughter.

 

When Barbara Ann finally meets a boy and believes all her dreams are coming true, her life shatters in ways she never saw coming.

In desperation she tries escaping her pain, but instead her anxiety and depression increase and she spirals into a “nervous breakdown”.

 

It is in the midst of all of this that Barbara Ann learns the depths of her mother’s betrayal and the realization of just how much she’s lost, and the need to find inner strength.

 

Readers will be torn between understanding a mother's interference in her daughter’s life and her daughter's emotional stress caused by the mother’s interference.

 

Readers will enter the world of a teenage girl and experience what life’s like from her point of view… experiencing anxiety, loss, grief and depression.

Genre

Memoir

Critic Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 9

The use of the bird on the barbed wire tightrope ties into the title. At first, one might wonder why the use of barbed wire, but after reading the book, it's easy to understand the symbolism behind it. It's a fairly simple idea, but one that conveys the title and meaning of the book. 

Book Blurb Score: 9

A quick overview that includes the date, place and main character's name. It quickly sets the scene for the book and the struggles that the main character will face. 

Formatting Score: 9

Well formatted book helps to keep the reader engaged with the characters and the story's drama as it unfolds. 

Spaced well with no long paragraphs. This helps to keep the attention of the reader on the story. 

Grammar & Spelling Score: 9

Pg. 180 - "You gotta to see". I believe this was meant to be "You gotta come see". 

Plot & Structure Score: 8

Consistent conflict throughout the book that propels the story forward and keeps the book interesting. The beginning of the book brings on a lot of questions about what exactly is happening to Barbara Ann. This engages the reader right away and pushes them to keep reading the book to find out what happened. 

I read the first book about Barbara Ann and was aware of the drama that preceded this one; however, for someone who did not, they would easily be able to follow the conflict and struggle with Barbara Ann as she now moves through her early teen years. 

 

Character Development Score: 9

It's easy to step inside of Barbara Ann's shoes and understand her motives for doing what she does and for understanding the series of events that lead to her eventual breakdown. While reading, you might even catch a glimpse of your early years as Barbara Ann has many relatable moments. 

Originality Score: 9

A teenager going through love, heartbreak, and the awkwardness surrounding growing up may seem like a cliche, but because it's a memoir it stands out. As you read about Barbara Ann and her teenage years, it takes you on a journey that you will either relate to or be drawn into by the constant conflict. 

Pacing Score: 7

Some parts of the story seem a little slower than others; however, at times it's needed in order to further explain a situation or a feeling. Overall, it moves at a pretty steady pace. 

Use of Language Score: 9

Language is clear and easy to read. 

Dialogue enhances the story and shows clear interaction between characters. 

Overall Readability Score: 9

Overall, I quite enjoyed reading this book. It's very relatable and easy to understand. 

This book received a critic's score of 87 out of 100 possible points.

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Curator Evaluation

Cover Design Score: 7

The cover design is adequate but I have a feeling that this author, who is a gifted artist working in bold colours, could come up with something more vibrant and eye-catching.

Book Blurb Score: 7

The blurb is accurate but, long and gives away too much information. I would suggest trimming it to make it a bit more punchy.

Formatting Score: 10

The formatting is good.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 9

The grammar and spelling are almost perfect. I found two things that slipped past the proofreader:

1. Pg: 175 “You’re not supposed to be out the road!”

2. Pg 211 So we spent our lives in a stale mate.; Stalemate is one word.

Plot & Structure Score: 8

Barbara Ann allows the reader to discover issues in her world as they unfold. She never allows hindsight to intrude so the reader sees through the eyes of teenage girl growing up in the seventies, which was a time of great social change. Her mother is the antagonist, her father intervenes between mother and daughter at crucial moments but he, like his daughter, turns in on himself to cope with his world.

Character Development Score: 8

Barbara Ann grows and develops through the struggle with her mother, a woman who sees everything in black and white. Her mother's negativity and dogmatic approach lead to confusion and hostility. Barbara Ann rails against what she perceives as unfairness, the struggle subsumes her and she descends into depression. It is only when she can speak honestly with her father that the fog begins to clear and she can make her way back into the light.

Originality Score: 8

This may not be the first memoir about the difficult relationship between a mother and daughter, but the honesty with which the story is rendered gives it a freshness.

Pacing Score: 8

The author skillfully manages the alternating moods of boredom, hope, despair, frustration and confusion which every teenager experiences. The descent into something darker -- depression --- is sensitively handled, as are the hints of what goes on in the lives of her parents. The feeling of wanting to know, on Barbara Anne's part, of what is really going on and why the adults behave as they do, is palpable.

Use of Language Score: 9

As a teenager in the 1970s, I recognized Barbara Anne's voice -- her use of language is authentic.

Overall Readability Score: 10

There is an innate rhythm to the narrative which made me feel I was next to Barbara Anne and I needed to find out how the issues would resolve.

This book was curated by KathyMG

This book received a critic's score of 84 out of 100 possible points.

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