The Universe Is Expanding and So Am I

Reviewed By  Grasshopper2       November 8, 2018


Author  Carolyn Mackler

Distributor:      Bloomsbury YA
ISBN:                 9781408897041
Publisher:         Bloomsbury UK
Release Date:   October 2018  


 It would be easy to assume from the beginning of this story that it was a simple teenage romance. The reader meets Virginia, age 16, who lives in New York with her parents. She is the youngest child in the family. Dad is a business man, Mum is a psychologist; Virginia has an older sister who is working in a refugee camp overseas. Gin also has an older brother who has been sent down from college for an “Ordeal.”

Virginia’s parents are very disciplined in their fitness and diet routines, and despair of her large size and lack of motivation. Gin however, sees herself as “Curvaceous,” and is resistant to their constant efforts to improve her. During the stressful time of end of year exams, Gin finds that the boy she thought of as her first boyfriend, is not as special as she had hoped and she has fallen “Out of like with him.”

It is during this time that she finds out that the reason her brother has been sent home is because he has been accused of date rape. After a period of time, the police come to take him away. At a young age this can only mean he will possibly go to jail and be put on a sex offenders register. He was to have studied law.  Horrified for her brother, Virginia meets the girl who has made the accusation. Equally horrified, she discovers the young girl has had her life changed forever, and although she is trying not to be a victim, the abused girl can’t move away from the dreadful action.

This is almost a novel of awakening from a teenager to adulthood, as Virginia sees her parents prepared to do anything to protect their son. Her older sister comes back at this time and breaks the news that she has a partner. Another woman.  Again, the family is rocked, they are furious, and see it as a phase, like her vegetarian phase. It is now clear that the family code is one of secrecy… no one in their family does anything other than the “right thing.”  To complicate matters Virginia meets a lovely young man but then discovers he is related to her brother’s victim.

Getting her thoughts straight and realizing that her parents are not infallible, is a tough job for a sixteen-year-old. The way Virginia rationalizes her thoughts and feelings is interesting to follow and bit by bit we see an independent young woman of strength and character emerge. The process and development are engaging.