After the author’s mother dies of uterine cancer when her oldest daughter is 19, Feder (Unladylike for adults) finds herself longing for something “that cradles my grief without smothering it.” Emphasizing the awkward and silly moments surrounding death, she has created the book she wanted to read. Her mom “wasn’t some sad sack in a sickbed waiting to die (even when she WAS a sad sack in a sickbed waiting to die),” nor was she a saint, and Feder brings her meaningfully to life. In one of many sweetly evocative scenes, she recalls the intimate surprise of knowing immediately which font her creative mother would have wanted on her own funeral pamphlets. Feder’s simple art features light pink backgrounds, a diverse cast of supporting characters, and details that make the story feel real (covered mirrors during the shivah, for example). The so-called pity party is illustrated in charming family scenes and flights of fancy such as “the app I wish existed: Dead Mom” (“Look up any movie to find out if the mom dies in it!”). Until that app exists, this book offers a wealth of perspective about coping with grief. Ages 12–up. Agent: Monica Odom, Odom Media Management. (Apr.)
★ "Sincere but not sappy, this bittersweet and affecting meditation on the author’s experiences also serves as a heartfelt celebration of her mother’s life.” —Horn Book
★ "Feder’s simple art features light pink backgrounds, a diverse cast of supporting characters, and details that make the story feel real . . . this book offers a wealth of perspective about coping with grief." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
★ "Equal parts celebration, reflection, and mourning, this graphic memoir touches on the unpredictable path of grief . . . Grieving teens will find incredible solace in Feder’s story; all readers will be stirred by this wrenching yet uplifting musing." —School Library Journal, starred review
★ "Feder takes readers along on the nightmare road trip that nobody wants to make in a frank and funny, intimate and poignant graphic novel . . . The narrative, in peppily solid panel art, is exceptionally articulate and accessible." —BCCB, starred review
★ “Grief can be crushing, but this heartfelt memoir will comfort those who have known it and gently show those who haven’t how to help and what to expect.” —Booklist, starred review
"The pastel-toned illustrations effectively convey Feder's youth and the intensity of her emotions while emphasizing the ultimate message of survival and resilience in the face of life-changing grief. Cathartic and uplifting." —Kirkus Reviews
Feder (Unladylike) had just finished her first year of college, was managing being away from her awesome family, and heading toward the best years of her life when tragedy struck. Here, Feder tells the story of her mother's diagnosis with late-stage cancer, the chemo appointments that followed, her mother's eventual death, her funeral, and shiva. As Feder faces life without her mother, her feelings of sadness, loss, and hope will resonate with those who still have their moms in their lives and those who don't, as well as anyone who has dealt with grief or have struggled to help others through the process. Throughout are helpful pointers for coping through difficulty and a resounding personal message of I understand you. VERDICT Feder's colorful, realistic illustrations, rendered in unusual paneling styles, bring her cherished mother to life and offer a refreshing take on a subject no one wishes to talk about, compelling readers to reexamine their own understanding of the grieving processes and that of others.—Traci Glass, Mesa, AZ
Gr 8 Up—Feder's tender memoir of coping with a parent's death deftly and sensitively blends joy, anguish, and even whimsy. The author was just 19 when her mother, Rhonda, was diagnosed with stage-four cancer, with little chance of survival. Feder was often away at college while her family oversaw Rhonda's treatment in Florida. During a visit home, Feder was shocked to find Rhonda had taken a turn for the worse, passing away mere days later. Equal parts celebration, reflection, and mourning, this graphic memoir touches on the unpredictable path of grief. Feder shares her experience of navigating death with beauty and raw honesty. At times, the pastel coloring belies the somber moments, but the powder soft pinks also celebrate Feder's memory of Rhonda and emphasize Tyler's youth. The minimal backgrounds center the focus on Feder and her family, and the controlled but loose lines speak to the ever present conflict between Feder's need for stability and the chaos into which she was thrust. The chapters end with illustrated tips, lists, and other quirky yet informative extras. VERDICT Grieving teens will find incredible solace in Feder's story; all readers will be stirred by this wrenching yet uplifting musing. Hand this one to readers who are ready to move past Raina Telgemeier's work and take a step closer to Lucy Knisley's memoirs.—Alea Perez, Elmhurst Public Library, IL
The experiences of watching a mother succumb to cancer and grieving her death are explored with honesty and compassion.
Feder (illustrator: Unladylike, 2018), the oldest of three sisters in a close-knit Jewish family, grew up with an artistic, spirited, playful, and affectionate mother, someone whose high spirits were the perfect foil for her daughter's anxious personality. The summer after Feder's freshman year of college, her mother was diagnosed with cancer, dying in the spring of Feder's sophomore year. This vulnerable memoir is a tribute to a beloved woman as well as a meditation on losing a parent when one is on the cusp of adulthood. Much like grief itself, the book careens from deep despair to humor to poignancy, fear, remorse, and anger, mirroring the emotional disorientation that comes with such a significant death. By sharing many particulars about her mother—the foods she loved and hated, the silly in-jokes, her endearing (and annoying) quirks—Feder personalizes her loss in a way that will resonate with members of the "Dead Moms Club," with whom she describes having an immediate bond. Readers who have not experienced deep grief will learn from the missteps of well-intentioned friends and acquaintances. The pastel-toned illustrations effectively convey Feder's youth and the intensity of her emotions while emphasizing the ultimate message of survival and resilience in the face of life-changing grief.
Cathartic and uplifting. (Graphic memoir. 12-adult)