The Children’s Book Review | April 4, 2017
Written by Whitney Taylor
Age Range: 14-18
Paperback: 326 pages
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers (2017)
What to Expect: Gritty Realism, Mental-Health Issues, Explicit Language
Books about teenagers with issues are dime-a-dozen: it can get a little bit tiresome to come across yet another in-depth exploration of what it really means to be a troubled adolescent. Nevertheless, Whitney Taylor’s Definitions of Indefinable Things stands out from the reams of other teen-angst novels for being courageously honest and uplifting. Written with a gritty realism that hides none of the ugly truths of life, this novel manages to find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Unashamed sufferer of clinical depression, Reggie Mason struggles to find happiness from the tangled relationships and humdrum small-town life. The best plan, in her way of thinking, is to keep the world out. No friends, no love – no pain. That all changes, however, when she meets Snake. Snake is also depressed – and cool, and funny, and intelligent, and fixated on Reggie. The only problem is, he is also the reluctant father of Reggie’s ex-childhood friend’s unborn seven-month fetus. Caught between hating her ex-friend for using her, and hating Snake for his treatment of both of them, Reggie finds it is not so easy to remain aloof. When Carla cajoles Reggie into attending birthing classes with her in lieu of an angry and absent Snake, she finds herself unwittingly drawn into a complex relationship with both of them. It remains to be seen whether the three of them can negotiate a definition of happiness that works for them, in defiance of the expectations and assumptions of those around them.
It is the three-dimensional nature of Whitney Taylor’s characters that makes Definitions of Indefinable Things so enjoyable to read – that, and the rich, complex, and intelligent dialogue. Taken together, these elements remind the reader that being young does not mean you have to be conventionally predictable, safely middle-of-the-road, or conservatively stupid. It reminds us that no one can define our brand of happiness for us – and that is a valuable reminder for anyone.
About Whitney Taylor
Whitney Taylor is a YA writer who only speaks one language–fangirl. When she’s not devouring books, she spends here time taking selfies, obssesing over any TV show with a love triangle, and eating too much McDonald’s. She’s an English and Psychology major from Virginia who likes to pretend she’s a supermodel from New York City.
Definitions of Indefinable Things, by Whitney Taylor, was reviewed by Dr. Jen Harrison. Discover more books like Definitions of Indefinable Things by following along with our reviews and articles tagged with Books With Grit, Mental Health, Realism, and Young Adult Fiction.