Y by Marjorie Celona- a review
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, and is interspersed between Shannon’s story and her POV. 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 well-written 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?
Copy supplied by Goodreads Firstreads.
Reviewed by Sandy