Everybody’s Daughter by Marsha Qualey
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Historical
Length: Short Story (115 pages)
Age Recommendation: 16+
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 3 Stars
Review by: Astilbe
After a family friend accidentally detonates a bomb during a political protest, the aftershocks continue to roil through 17-year-old Beamer Flynn’s life. The first child born in a commune her parents helped form, Beamer has grown up under the watchful eye of all the people once involved in the now-disbanded commune. They were all present at her birth, voted on her name (Merry Moonbeam), and still feel entitled to have a say in her life.
As those friends (the “Woodies”) gather at her Northern Minnesota home to discuss and deal with the consequences of the bombing, Beamer yearns to escape their constant presence–especially their surveillance of her life, her deepening romance with boyfriend Andy, and her developing relationship with a college student, Martin.
Andy will soon be graduating and heading east to college; he wants more emotional and physical intimacy. Martin wants time together and to become part of the cozy community around the family’s woodstove. The Woodies want updates on every conversation and night out. Beamer wants to escape.
Cross-country skiing, school, snowmobile racing, and winter softball (on-ice) all provide welcome distractions until Beamer comes to the attention of a persistent reporter who is writing about the bombing. When the reporter expands that story to include Beamer, the turbulent winter threatens to explode.
Through her relationship with Andy and Martin, and in the lingering shadow of the distant 1960s, Beamer is finally forced to examine her unusual upbringing and confront the legacy of being Everybody’s Daughter.
The problem with growing up around people who’ve known you all your life is that it can be hard for them to adjust to all of the changes that happen to everyone in high school. Will Beamer be able to spread her wings without forgetting her roots?
Beamer is a girl who is still figuring out what she wants. At first I wasn’t quite sure what to think of her due to her tendency to say anything that crosses her mind without thinking about how other people might react to her bluntness. Once I adjusted to this, I soon came to appreciate her ability to be honest in any situation. There is also definitely something to be said for a protagonist who has real, serious flaws.
The pacing was surprisingly slow for a novella of this length. The introductions in the first chapter piqued my interest, but the lull after that made me feel a little restless. I was curious to know what would happen to Beamer next. Waiting for so much time to find out what was in store for her dampened my enthusiasm during the second half of the plot in particular because it was so drawn out.
I wasn’t expecting to encounter any romantic elements when I picked this book up, but Ms. Qualey integrated it well into everything else that was going on. The characters involved in this relationship have realistic disagreements. and conflicts seeing if their romance would actually work out kept me reading.
There were so many characters in this story that I sometimes had trouble keeping track of all of them. While I enjoyed getting to know the men and women who had once lived with Beamer and her family in the commune, most of them could have been eliminated from the plot without too much effort. Skipping over those storylines would have also helped the main storyline mature more quickly. A full-length novel would have the space to explore these kinds of subplots, but for something this size it can be difficult to keep everything moving smoothly.
Some parents are more embarrassing than others. My favourite scenes show how Beamer responds to the counter-cultural, and occasionally downright eccentric, things her parents say and do. The term weird doesn’t even begin to explain certain rules they’ve made for Beamer and her younger brother over the years. I could have easily absorbed a few more chapters describing all of the conspiracy theories and alternative ways of doing things that Mr. and Mrs. Flynn believe in wholeheartedly.
Everybody’s Daughter was an interesting read. Give it a try if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to live in a commune!