In Enigma, the protagonist—fifteen-year-old Bohnnie—is searching to define her own identity, which is one of my very favorite themes. In the first chapter of the novel, we see Bohnnie (a) questioning how she fits into her adoptive family; (b) testing her own independence through conflict with her adoptive mother; (c) observing her own judgment of others and how there are “in” cliques that she wants to be part of; and (d) realizing that sometimes emotions are larger than the words we have to express them.
What I really like is how the author presents those ideas for scrutiny--without getting bogged down in backstory, and without trying to provide one-size-fits-all answers. Like this:
Now was her chance to apologize. But how? Bohnnie knew she had hurt her mum pretty bad, she just didn’t know how to make it up to her.
This internal confusion makes Bohnnie respond angrily when given unexpected news, which only increases her confusion, and now she feels guilty too! She calls her friend Riley to vent:
“Aren’t you overreacting?” Riley asked. Bohnnie got defensive and finally Riley agreed that her mum had been really unfair and rude.
Bohnnie’s mother confronts her and they have an argument that results in Bohnnie’s being grounded. But the School Fall Festival is that night. In an uncharacteristic move, Bohnnie ignores her mother’s rules and makes plans to sneak out with Riley. Something happens, of course, and Bohnnie finds herself in trouble for all kinds of reasons. Big changes are made, she meets new people, she exercises her independence, and she learns that she’s more exceptional than she ever imagined.
I love this! The author so beautifully presents us with normal, everyday scenarios, and reminds us that from those moments we learn, grow, and shape ourselves into the people we’re designed to be.
Stories like this help us all see that life constantly presents us with chances to become ourselves; and that insight is relevant whether we’re 15 or 95. Enigma is a very smart book written by a young woman supremely tuned in to the world of human emotion.