Ingeniously framing a young girl’s exploration of her identity within the search for a new nickname, Karen Romano Young’s Hundred Percent is a masterful examination of pre-adolescent confusion.
Christine Gouda’s nickname has been Tink for as long as anyone can remember. Physically maturing at a rate far surpassing her fellow sixth graders, she feels like she has outgrown the sobriquet, much like she has outgrown basically everything else in her world. Tink’s best friend, Jackie, suggests “Chris,” an abbreviation of her given name, but that doesn’t seem right either. Or maybe it does, who can tell?
Young’s ability to portray the uncertainty of tweenhood without ever delving into absurdity or melodrama is phenomenal. She makes no effort to cutesify (it’s a word, trust me) the time, nor does she try to imbue it with a long-term importance it doesn’t earn. She writes with an even hand, treating each moment with respect and dignity and not a whiff of pandering. Even the heart-wrenching, tough parts are soaked through with genuine care, humour and affection.
Her characters, from Tink (Chris?) to Jackie to Christine’s new friend, Bushwhack, are each living, breathing, realistic human people living realistic human experiences.
The high-water mark for modern adolescent fiction on Kinderlit has long been Megan Jean Sovern’s The Meaning of Maggie (also published by Chronicle), and Hundred Percent gives it a run for its money. Do we have a new high water mark? That depends on which way the wind is blowing on any given day. They are both phenomenally well-done character studies, exploring difficult moments in a young girl’s life.
Beyond recommended. A must-read.
Kinderlit.ca requested and received a copy of Hundred Percent in exchange for an honest review. Read about Review Policy here.