4 out of 4 stars
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Imagine a story of a girl growing up in the 50s and 60s, finding it really hard to fit in with others her age and having overprotective parents to boot. You will wonder if this is just another memoir that could be full of disjointed childhood stories and fading memories. The answer is no. That’s not what Kiss Your Elbow by Susan Stocker is like. Far from it.
On February 13, 1950, Susan Lynn Webb is born into the Webb family, which consists of her mom, dad, and brother, Randy. Susan and Randy are as different as chalk and cheese, and Susan has a tough time growing up with a brother who doesn’t understand the importance of her imaginary mouse friend and would rather spend his time working on science experiments for which he often pulls her in as a potential guinea pig. Susan believes girls’ clothes are strange and unnatural and prefers to don boys’ clothing any time of day. She prefers playing sports after school and on weekend afternoons to anything else. What’s more, she excels at whatever sport she tries her hand at.
As years pass and she becomes a teenager, Susan discovers that she feels no attraction toward boys and has a strong affinity toward her own gender. Having an overprotective mother at home who likes her daughter to follow the norm and not stray in any way, Susan is unsure if this affinity is normal for a girl and initially has a hard time dealing with it and fitting in with a high school crowd. How does this impact the rest of her life? Can a girl who makes radically different choices than others in her age group live a happy life and eventually grow up into a confident adult?
Stocker demonstrates how crucial it is to have parents who are more like friends to their children and how they need to understand what the children are going through in life by putting themselves in the their shoes. Susan is a girl who grows up to be a tomboy, and her mother finds it really difficult to accept the fact that her daughter is different. She does feel for her daughter when she sees her suffering under social pressure and tries to help but, sometimes, this very help backfires—making things worse for Susan. But then again, Susan’s mom does want the best for her child—sending her to Don’s and Deb’s was just one of those things. It was another thing that Susan hated those sessions, especially due to the dressy girls’ clothes and shoes to match.
It is clear that the author has a way with words. She makes us relive her childhood with her when she talks about how she used food color to dye her dog blue. Then she chose to dye her guinea pig blue too. This is just one of the numerous adventures we see Susan embark on.
Stocker writes in a manner that makes us laugh out loud. However, there are parts in the book where you see what is happening in her life and instantly understand how difficult it would have been for her to cope with the situation. We have all been there and done that. Susan just seems to have done it all with a little more panache.
Dipping into this story proved to be a captivating experience, and the author’s work is remarkable. There aren’t many things that I did not like, and the simple misses are discussed below.
The book has some minor grammar issues. For instance, there is a sentence that starts out as “The rocket maybe a traveled a total of…..” and has an extra unnecessary indefinite article in it. At another instance, there is a question that reads “Where did you get such filth and why would you take such vial trash to school?” It seems like “vial” is a misspelt “vile.” However, such issues do not distract one from the story, and that’s why they will not affect the rating.
I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The story is charming, the chapters are well-organized, and the writing is excellent. Readers who enjoy memoirs that are relatable and explore various emotions will enjoy Kiss Your Elbow. However, there are a few instances when Susan is stuck in some awkward and embarrassing situations, which might make very young readers a little uncomfortable.
Kiss Your Elbow
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