A Private Face is a heartfelt story about a rebellious teenager and a loving mother who never gives up hope that she can get her son to alter his impertinent attitude and stop making bad choices that get him into trouble both at school and at home.
Kate’s life has been turned upside down. She has recently separated from her husband, Simon, and her sixteen-year-old son, James, is testing the boundaries of her patience with his rebellious behavior. When Kate and Simon attend a parent-teacher conference at James’s high school, they find out that James has been skipping classes and not turning in his homework. James blows it off as no big deal to his parents’ consternation. Kate is unsure how to get James to change his behavior, especially since her eighteen-year-old daughter, Isabel, never gave her any problems while growing up. Will James straighten up if she and Simon get back together? Does she even want to?
As the days go by, James’s unacceptable behavior continues to escalate in the face of every discipline technique Kate tries. Foul language, obnoxious back talk, drinking, smoking marijuana, and mischievous pranks are commonplace in James’s life. Kate is desperate to pull him out of his unhealthy downward spiral. Will she be able to get James to change his rude behavior before it is too late and his outlandish conduct affects him for the rest of his life?
Kate’s remembrances of advice from both her grandmother and nuns at the Catholic school she attended along with friendships, her part-time nursing job, and psychic readings are valuable mechanisms in helping her cope with all of the challenges in her life. Even though Kate no longer diligently follows the Catholic faith, she feels guilty about going to psychics for readings. However, at the same time she gains valuable insight into James’s rebellious nature and is offered encouragement that the caring and respectful child she once knew is not lost forever.
Annie Henry has written an inspiring story that will appeal to mothers in today’s society who are sometimes at a loss in how to counteract the negative effects social media can have on young teenagers and their perception of acceptable behaviors. An underlying theme in the book is how people have distinctly different private and public personas and how it affects decisions people make in their lives and how the personas can sometimes unexpectedly merge in times of high stress. Although the majority of the story is told from Kate’s viewpoint, readers are given a teenager’s perspective from Isabel on how the family is affected by James’s insolence.