Unfinished Portrait of Jessica

Book review by
Monica Wyatt, Common Sense Media
Unfinished Portrait of Jessica Book Poster Image
Highly realistic adolescent confusion.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

The main character deliberately ignores, deceives, and insults her mother, but later learns to love her.


One scene that implies sex between adults.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this book has writing that teenagers will understand and a story that gets to the heart of adolescence.

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Adult Written bygymnast33895 April 9, 2008

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What's the story?

Jessica worships her father and blames her mother for their separation. She punishes her mom by sulking in her room until she is sent to Mexico to spend Christmas with her dad. There she learns the truth about her selfish father and realizes that she loves her mother after all. Highly realistic adolescent confusion.


Is it any good?

The book requires some emotional maturity and thus may best please older, more experienced readers. It includes discussion of the art world, which intrigues some readers but bores others.

Conflicts with parents consume many teenagers, and blaming the parent who stays behind is all too common. Here Richard Peck examines a girl who blames her mother for her father's failings. When Jessica finally allows herself to see the truth about her father, she can see the truth about her mother and at last develop a loving relationship with her. While it all may seem too neat, it serves to make the point that we can blind ourselves to our own best interests.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Jessica's complicated relationship with her parents. Why does she reject her mother? Why does she worship her father?

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