My Life as a Rhombus

If you haven’t already read My Life as a Rhombus by Varian Johnson I’m really going to have to insist that you do so. As usual I won’t be revealing too much about the plot mostly because I think any plot summary makes Rhombus sound like a problem novel,1 which it really isn’t. It’s a character study of a wonderful, smart, engaging, confused teenager, who’s a total maths geek and wants to go to Georgia Tech to become an engineer.2 It’s a quiet story about surviving high school, working hard, about friendship, love, and family relations that touches on all sorts of big stuff—class, privilege, power—without ever being preachy or obvious.

I adore how not preachy Rhombus is. It’s a gentle book that is never for a second boring. (I made the mistake of starting it when I went to bed. Didn’t put it down till I finished—just shy of 5AM.) I love books where there really aren’t any villains. There are people who behave badly in Rhombus, but you understand why and where they’re coming from even. I felt almost nourished by this book. I hug it to my chest.

Another thing I loved about My Life as a Rhombus: the tables and mathematical formulas and postulates throughout the book. They were funny and wry and even innumerate me was able to understand them.

You want this book! You want to read it! Immediately!

My reading only good novels streak remains unbroken. W00t!

If you’ve read Rhombus I’d love to talk about it with you in the comments. So I guess that’s a warning that the comments might be spoilery.

  1. I have a huge prejudice against problem novels which I may have to reconsider since the last few books I read that could be considered problem novels were all fabulous. []
  2. I kind of wish I’d gone to school with Rhonda. We could’ve obsessed about basketball together. I could introduce Rhonda to the WNBA, which she seems not to know about. []


  1. Pixelfish on #

    Er….I’m confused by the terminology. What’s a “problem” novel?

  2. King Rat on #

    I can’t really say anything about My Life as a Rhombus but I am just about finished with Johnson’s first book, A Red Polka Dot In a World Full of Plaid and I’m enjoying it very much. Really good characters.

  3. Shalonda on #

    I just ordered this book! It should be here any day now!

  4. stacy on #

    I both love and fear those kinds of books, the ones that keep you up reading all night. They’re the best–but my sleep does suffer because of it. 🙂

  5. Rachel on #

    So with you on problem novels (although i call them issue books).

  6. Brenda Kahn on #

    Justine, You wrote a beautiful post about My Life as a Rhombus. I read it this summer and thought it singularly special. Great characters, realistic dilemma with no easy solution. This past spring I listened to Red Polka Dot in a World Full of Plaid. I listened and enjoyed the characters, idly wondering where the plot would go and was left utterly breathless by the ending. Never saw it coming. I’m really looking forward to his next book, Saving Maddie, due out in March of 2010.

  7. MissAttitude on #

    My Life as A Rhombus made my life! I too loved the math forumlas and postulates, even though I really don’t understand them in mathmatical terms. It’s wrapped up pretty nicely, but I still want a sequel just because I love Rhonda! I did end up feeling sort of bad for what’-his-name the ex boyfriend. Not so much sympathy for Sarah’s mother.
    I can’t wait for Saving Maddie and I do want to read Red Polka Dot in a Room Full of Plaid.
    So glad you liked it!

  8. Shveta on #

    Agreed. Everyone reading these comments, Rhombus is a great book, and Johnson took a lot of effort to create believable female characters, whom he then treated with respect and sensitivity while still giving them room to screw up and learn from their mistakes. Go read it!

  9. Shveta on #

    Eep, excuse that run-on. I was too excited to get my thoughts out. 😛

  10. Diana Peterfreund on #

    I also loved Rhombus and I’m so glad you finally got around to reading it. I read it this spring when I got it in a contest packet — I’m so glad I did because otherwise I wouldn’t have discovered Varian johnson’s awesome books. I can’t wait for his next one. Also, I get to meet him next month at kidlitcon and I can’t wait for that either.

  11. Edi on #

    I read and reviewed on my blog Rhombus a little while ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it stays in circulation in my library. I always hold my breath hoping that it will still come back!
    I was amazed not only at how well Johnson got her voice, but how he got into her head! He deftly analyzed Rhonda’s relationship with her father and with her peers. Rhonda had a very real problem, one you wouldn’t expect such a ‘good’ girl to have, but we are all complex characters with good and bad in us. What saves us, what saved Rhonda, is how we act to grow out of the hurt. Johnson’s next book comes out in 2010.

  12. Varian Johnson on #

    Wow! Thanks for all the kind words. I’m very, very humbled.

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