On the Docket: The Kid Table by Andrea Seigel

Genre: Young Adult

Source: Author & Publisher, Bloomsbury Kids USA, Penguin Canada

Scheduled Publication Date: September 14th, 2010

The Publisher’s Plot Blurb:

Stuck at the kid table? It might be the best seat in the house! Ingrid Bell and her five teenage cousins are such a close-knit group that they don’t really mind sitting at the kid table- even if they have to share it with a four-year-old. But then Brianne, the oldest cousin, lands a seat at the adult table and leaves her cousins shocked and confused. What does it take to graduate from the kid table?

Over the course of five family events, Ingrid chronicles the coming-of-age of her generation. With family members who play Christmas music at a bar mitzvah and invite a grown man to play Baby New Year at a party, she’s not so sure the right generation is sitting at the kid table. When first love comes in the form of first betrayal (he’s Brianne’s boyfriend), Ingrid is forced to question how she fits into her family and what it means to grow up- only to realize that maybe the kid table what where she wanted to be all along.

First Impressions: After reading and loving Seigel’s novel Like the Red Panda, I was eager to sink my teeth into her first official venture into YA. The day I received The Kid Table in the mail, I read the first few chapters on the way home from work. Not only was I amazed by the accuracy of Seigel’s dialogue, but the absolute hilarity of her perception. Needless to say, I got a few glances from my fellow public transit commuters as I laughed out loud.

The proof is in the pudding, as they say, so here’s an example:

My earliest memory is fuzzy, not because of time, but because I’m looking out of a full-body jumper. It’s sea foam green. My mom has cinched the hood so tight that my vision is a fleecy porthole.

And, for good measure, here’s another one:

When I was ten my Siberian hamster, nastiest little asshole you’d ever meet, choked on the piece it bit off my finger. I still have a dent in my left pinkie. My dad replaced Jaws with a Syrian hamster, and Sweetie was a licker, not a biter, so it’s tragic that she came along right as I was entering my body glitter phase. The vet took one look at the shimmering foam on her lips and pronounced my lotion the probable cause of death.

Having owned a variety of gerbils and hamsters during my foggy but playful childhood, I could certainly relate. I was also relegated to the kid table for the majority of my family’s dinner parties, Thanksgiving feasts, and Christmas buffets. There, I would hang out with my cousins (all at a variety of ages), open our mouths and show each other the chewed food inside. Yes, I know, we were all very mature at the time. It’s probably why we all ended up at the “kid table.” That way, we wouldn’t bother the adults with our petty “antics.”

Though extremely funny and insightful, The Kid Table‘s narrator, Ingrid Bell, is unlike most teen characters. She’s extremely observant, very intelligent, and can hold her own in any battle of verbal wits that a relative may throw her way. The philosophical honesty she injects into the story is, at times, uncomfortable, but necessary to pull the reader out of his/her lulled complacency. She demands that the reader be a part of the moral dilemma.

Speaking of dilemmas, I couldn’t help but be a little frustrated by Ingrid’s attraction to Trevor. Although I couldn’t completely understand the connection they seemed to have with one another, I could, however, see why it meant so much to Ingrid. Trevor is the kind of guy I could never fall for; he’s too passive, kind of lazy, and doesn’t actually know what he wants in general, let alone a relationship.

Momentary frustration aside, I admired Ingrid’s feisty independence, wit, and charm. By the end of the novel, I could respect her decisions and her motivations. My admiration for her stems mainly from her ability to be practical, something that many female teen characters don’t seem to have (are you listening Bella?). She can step back from a situation and consider the pros and cons with a clear head and without rose coloured glasses perched on her nose. Her romanticism is of the realistic nature, so to speak; even though she does allow herself to “daydream,” she does so with the knowledge that life is significantly more complicated than we expect.

Seigel also touches on other socially relevant, heavier issues, such as eating disorders, alcoholism, and divorce, but she does so with a uniquely philosophical  voice. She simply asks the important questions and leaves them hanging for the reader to consider and potentially answer. Ingrid’s cousins, Brianne and Cricket, are especially interesting and poignant.

Final Verdict: I laughed my way through this book. The characters are vibrant and realistic, totally hilarious and wonderfully accessible. You’ll feel right at home while reading The Kid Table. The writing is crisp and effective; Seigel didn’t let me down! Ingrid is memorable, realistic, and ultra witty. She isn’t afraid to let you know what she thinks, which is always intelligent and observant. Highly readable. If you’ve ever been to “one of those endless family gatherings,” this book is for you.

Check in tomorrow for an interview with the author, Andrea Seigel!