Nina: Adolescence by Amy Hassinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Note: This review was originally written in the early 2000s and published for a no longer running website: AudiobookCafe. This review addresses both the book and the audiobook. This audiobook is an endearing story about a young girl emerging into womanhood and the many expected and unexpected dilemmas that come with that growth. Most young women wage war with their self-image, but Nina not only battles with her own inner demons, she faces additional pressure with her naked body being publicly displayed. Her mother, a painter, has cataloged Nina's transformation from child to adult in a series of nude portraits that are being shown in a gallery. Nina also carries a burden-the guilt for the death of her younger brother, four years prior to the beginning of the story. Her lost brother is detrimental enough for her to become quite introverted. She does not have any friends in school-until she meets Raissa, a friend from her dance class. In addition, as her mother's acclaim grows, a personal friend and renowned art critic, Leo takes a very deep and dangerous interest in Nina.
Nina's two primary relationships (Nina and Raissa, Nina and Leo) comprised much of the book. From Raissa, Nina learns about friendship and redevelops her youthful exuberance, which was lost with her brother. Their relationship is the typical teenage friendship but it is completely new to Nina who has not had friends. They fight, they laugh, they play "Truth or Dare". The two friends find themselves in a slew of teenage predicaments and remain friends through it all.
The intricate relationship that develops with Leo is another beast altogether. Leo, who was close to Nina's mother, takes a sexual interest in the fifteen-year-old, seducing the innocent Nina with cunning and guile. Amazingly, the talented author is able to deliver this part of the story in a believable manner. Her writing does not pass judgment-rather the author provides keen insight into Nina's mind to find that Nina's actions are a result of a combination of her confusion, her budding sexuality, and Leo's advances.
Another strong aspect to this story is Nina's relationship with her parents. While she does love her parents-she jumps back and forth with them in regards to how she feels towards them. They frustrate her one moment and are the best parents ever in the next moment. Her parents are present throughout the book, but much like everyone's teenage years-they may be there, but in many regards they are not there. They are no longer completely involved in their daughter's life and they begin to understand that Nina is becoming an adult with her own life.
This story captures the nuances of a female's emergence into womanhood. The author is able to freeze those memorable events of youthful discovery that many reminisce over delightfully. In addition, the realism of the story makes it that much more compelling-all elements of the story are so believable that one never really thinks, "Oh that couldn't happen."
Mia Barron does a fantastic narration of this book. Her tone was perfect for the exuberance, youthfulness, and energy of Nina. Mia captivated Nina with superb precision, however, there was one fault. This reviewer happens to be from the Boston area-where the story takes place. Knowing that the Boston accent can be a bit obnoxious, I can understand doing a flat accent for a dialogue, but the narrator delivers much of the dialogue in an accent resembling the Wisconsin/Minnesota region. Being distinctly familiar with the accent, I did find this a little disrupting. But her skill is not to be underrated-her depiction of a teenager emerging into womanhood is right on key.
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