Plot: In Phoebe Unfired, Amalie Jahn presents a teen protagonist struggling with a debilitating phobia that circumscribes her life and all of her relationships. Set some few years in the post-COVID future, the story imagines a young woman in whom the almost paranoiac germaphobia that became endemic in the first months of lockdown lingers, and refuses to allow her to get in sync with a world in which most have returned to their pre-COVID lifestyles.
Prose/Style: The tension and anxiety suffered by Phoebe are well-conveyed in vivid, urgent prose. While the descriptions of Phoebe's paralyzing bouts with anxiety can sometimes verge upon the repetitious, the fact that they do so is nevertheless the very nature of the malady.
Originality: To take a germophobic heroine and drop her into the depths of the NYC subway system is a surefire recipe for creating dramatic tension. It is refreshing to see a YA novel address the debilitating limitations an anxiety disorder imposes on the one who suffers from it.
Character Development/Execution: Phoebe is a smart, appealing heroine with impressive self-awareness. The book is a first-person narrative; at times, the self-awareness becomes self-centeredness, but this can be said to be largely due to the heroine's anxiety disorder blocking her ability to form connections to others. This unfortunately also means the other characters are not as well-rounded as they have the potential to be.
Date Submitted: April 01, 2021
I was lucky enough to read an early version of this book and it is AMAZING. Phoebe is a character you can't help but fall in love with. I want to wrap her up and put her in my pocket and carry her with me everywhere. Her story is so real and has all the feels. Be prepared to laugh and cry with this absolutely amazing story.
What a fantastic and important read. This book talks about mental health in a positive way and shines a light on how others can help those around them. This is the first book I’ve read that’s dealt with COVID, and I think it was handled well. Phoebe is a germaphobe with an immune-compromised little brother. So when she gets COVID, and shares it with him, she goes never to touch anything or anyone. Whew. I can’t even imagine, and reading all she does to protect herself is heartbreaking.
As a mom to a child with obsessive-compulsive behavior that’s germ-related, this book really got to me. Phoebe works with Walter, a 60 something who also suffers from anxiety and they form quite the friendship and serve as each other’s therapist. Then Phoebe meets JP and boy-oh-boy did he capture my heart. The more he learned of Phoebe’s fears, the more he wanted to help. He and his friends were the best and I loved watching them react to Phoebe and how Phoebe reacted in response.
This book was written so well, and did a fantastic job of addressing mental health - I’ll be singing its praises and recommending it to everyone young and old!
Authentic anxiety representation, combined with excellent character development, make Phoebe Unfired the book that every teen needs to read during and after Covid.
A heartfelt and beautiful story about a teenage girl who suffers from anxiety after accidentally giving Covid to her medically frail brother. Since then, Phoebe can’t touch anybody and is obsessed with avoiding germs. Her only hobby is pottery. Her best friend is a widowed bookseller who she works for. He encourages her to make a friend. She picks a handsome young man who plays the violin by the subway. But can she make and keep friends when her anxiety is overwhelming every part of her life?
The anxiety representation feels authentic and ultimately hopeful. Anxiety can’t be “fixed” in a day or by a certain person, but through therapy and love people can learn how to live with their phobias.
Like a piece of clay, Phoebe is being shaped by her past, her new friends, and her anxiety. She must decide when she’s ready to go into the fire.