AUTHOR: Brenda Vicars
PUBLISHER: Red Adept Publishing
AVAILABILITY: Purchase links on publisher's website
Young Adult - Contemporary
15-year-old Polarity Weeks has it rough. As if living with a mother with borderline personality disorder isn't hard enough, she and her family must move around a lot to seek treatments for Mom, meaning Polarity is always the new girl in school and often mocked as "trailer trash." Having a nerdy habit like a love for poetry doesn't help either. But all this is nothing compared to the humiliation and madness caused by having a naked picture of yourself surface online.
Polarity is the last one to know about her nude photo – and she's utterly blindsided. The girl in the photo is unmistakably her, and yet she doesn't recall ever posing for it. And when it spreads throughout the school, Polarity, who barely has computer access at home, is the last to know. Classmates mock her and slut-shame her. Teachers judge her and penalize her. Even her parents, though they try to be supportive, think she stripped for someone. Only Ethan, the kindhearted boy she's crushing hard on, believes in her innocence.
Polarity in Motion is a contemporary young adult tale full of harrowing challenges as Polarity deals with the fall-out of a crime she didn't commit. Because the authorities suspect her parents of taking the picture and possibly trafficking her, she's ripped from her home for her protection. Her school sends her to an "alternative education" campus that feels a lot like jail, refusing to believe her repeated insistences that she neither posed for nor posted the picture. And yet this isn't an angst novel by any means. Polarity displays an admirable ability to remain calm even as her world falls to piece. That's not to say she doesn't suffer the humiliation and fear that comes with being persecuted by the very people who are supposed to be protecting her. Rather, she pushes through the hardship and focuses on fixing the mess. And along the way, she learns some valuable life lessons.
Polarity in Motion adeptly handles a lot of tough subjects affecting real world teens today – cyberbullying, drugs, dealing with overzealous social workers and school officials, living with a mentally ill parent, and an acknowledgement of white privilege. Also, as depicted on the cover, interracial dating. Each subject is adeptly handled in a way that's plot-relevant and believable. While it does handle a lot of issues, it's not an "issues" book. The core of the novel is still the story and the characters. Aside from the cyberbullying, the part that stood out most to me was the depiction of Polarity's mother. It struck me as realistic and nuanced – a rare portrayal of someone dealing with mental illness that doesn't judge, victimize, or glorify the subject.
In fact, that can be said about all the subjects tackled in Polarity in Motion. As a protagonist and narrator, Polarity refrains from going to extremes in any of her observations. Rather, she tries to understand the crazy world around her, in which there are no straight answers to many of the challenges she faces. This was a fast read for me – I read it in two days because I couldn't put it down (something I never expected from a contemporary novel, since I usually read twist-y sci-fi and fantasy). With its subtle writing and compelling story lines, Polarity in Motion is a memorable and relevant teen book for the 21st century.
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, and outside of her job, she mentors children of incarcerated parents.
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, woodworking, gardening, and Zumba.