I just finished reading Choices, a novella by Jude McKinnon. The author was kind to send me a free copy. Choices depicts the adolescent relationships formed by a teenage girl who has recently moved to California. Her family is coping with a divorce, for which the girl perhaps shoulders more than her share of emotional responsibility. The novella contains a realistic and tense study of two abusive relationships, the first with a violent and conniving boy who could be described as a psychopath, and the second with a weak young man whose reaction to an unplanned pregnancy is horrifying. But there are many happier moments.

Scarlett, who narrates the story, is a well-realized character. She is an intelligent girl, often concerned with her friends and family, who sometimes makes maddening choices. Particularly well dramatized is Scarlett’s hesitance to report abuse. The psychology which leads many to continue in the face of abuse, and Scarlett’s immediate thoughts and reactions are accurately and thoroughly depicted. The acts themselves are unadorned and frank. It feels real, and is often shocking.

Scarlett remains a young girl, sometimes foolish, sometimes a little cruel, and primarily interested in her love life, which is fertile. The work unabashedly deals with sex: loss of virginity and well beyond in an intelligent and mature manner. Its psychology is thorough. For that reason, it may not be considered Y.A. fiction, but it would be appropriate for smart teenagers.

It was an enjoyable read and I am thankful to Jude for sending it to me. In the end, Scarlett must make a difficult choice between two favorable options: a literally distant marine (he is stationed in Japan) who insists on giving her everything he thinks a girl should want, and the good-natured though sometimes thoughtless young man she is grudgingly permitted to date at home. She makes the right choice, and I enjoyed observing her get there.

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