Fifteen-year-old Polarity Weeks just wants to live a normal life, but with a mother diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that’s rarely easy. Her life gets exponentially more disastrous when her sixth-period history classmates start ogling a nude picture of her on the Internet. Polarity would never have struck such a shameless pose, but the photo is definitely of her, and she’s at a complete loss to explain its existence.
Child Protective Services yanks her from her home, suspecting her parents. The kids at school mock her, assuming she took it herself. And Ethan, the boy she was really starting to like, backpedals and joins the taunting chorus. Surrounded by disbelief and derision on all sides, Polarity desperately seeks the truth among her friends. Only then does she learn that everyone has dark secrets, and no one’s life is anywhere near normal.
Polarity in Motion was a gripping read. Just reading about all that Polarity went through in her day-to-day life with her mom’s borderline personality disorder diagnosis and all the moving around her family does because of it was something else. But then to have a mysterious nude picture of her pop up online and spread through her new school like wildfire on top of that? Unreal…
For the first third or so of the book, the reader struggles right along with Polarity as she desperately hopes to be able to return home, unsure of how the system can be convinced once and for all that she’ll be safe there. Once she’s back with her parents, though, things don’t get immediately easy for her–she can count on one hand the number of people who truly believe that she didn’t pose for the picture, and unfortunately, for a long time her parents aren’t in that number. It truly seems baffling that this picture even exists for so much of the book, knowing Polarity as we do. The mystery of the picture–how it was taken, who took it, and why kept me turning the pages. I needed to know as much as Polarity did.
In the meantime, though, Polarity faces a host of other issues–racism, prejudice, bullying, teenage pregnancy, teen drug use, a look at how the system treats different groups of people differently, to name a few–and at times it all seemed to be a bit much. It felt like a good two or three books’ worth of issues, maybe even more, and none of them quite got the treatment they deserved here.
The ending–and the solution to the whodunnit? question–ended up feeling rushed. The author did a decent job of showing how there had been subtle indications of the truth all along, but it’s all resolved really quickly compared to the pace of the rest of the book. Given the cover photo (I know, I know–judging books by their covers and all that, so sue me) I would have thought there’d be more of a romance here than there was, though what was here was sweet when one of the two people involved wasn’t too busy pushing it away.
Teenagers. I tell you.
Verdict: Thought provoking and a good read, issues aside. I enjoyed Polarity’s voice, and would definitely read this author again.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B+
I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
Brenda Vicars has worked in Texas public education for many years. Her jobs have included teaching, serving as a principal, and directing student support programs. For three years, she also taught college English to prison inmates.
She entered education because she felt called to teach, but her students taught her the biggest lesson: the playing field is not even for all kids. Through her work, she became increasingly compelled to bring their unheard voices to the page. The heartbeat of her fiction emanates from the courage and resiliency of her students.
Brenda’s hobbies include reading, making things out of re-purposed wood, pulling weeds in the garden, and going to Zumba classes.