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The Wonder Spot is a “chick-lit” coming of age novel by award-winning author Melissa Banks.  At the opening of the book, we are introduced to our protagonist , Sophie Applebaum, who is riding in the car with her family on the way to her cousin’s bat mitzvah in Chappaqua, New...

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The Wonder Spot is a “chick-lit” coming of age novel by award-winning author Melissa Banks.  At the opening of the book, we are introduced to our protagonist, Sophie Applebaum, who is riding in the car with her family on the way to her cousin’s bat mitzvah in Chappaqua, New York. Sophie has been raised in Pennsylvania, in a suburban Jewish family, where she struggles to find her own identity.  

Throughout the novel, we follow Sophie as she grows and learns on her journey through adolescence and then adulthood.  At the bar mitzvah, she has her first defining moment of adolescence; she meets a cute eighth-grade boy with whom she sneaks cigarettes in the forest. Then, at a seventh grade skating party, Sophie suddenly realizes that no one is looking at her, even though she felt sure that everyone was.  This event sets the tone for the rest of the book and her journey to adulthood. Sophie, in contrast to her seemingly confident younger and older brothers, realizes over the course of her life that she is more of a follower than a doer. She feels disappointed and unsatisfied at almost every turn of her life, from attending Hebrew School to going on dates with men who never seem to satisfy her need for something more.

Meanwhile, she is surrounded by people who seem to know what they are doing; this includes a younger brother whose brilliance gives him an almost-certain direction in life, and an older brother whose charisma and charm make her feel a bit inferior and shapeless. We see her character through her relationship with her magical college roommate Venice, who seems almost unreal. We also see her character through her grandmother, who seems determined to rescue her from “impending spinsterhood” by finding her a nice young man.

Even as her life progresses and she navigates through her defining moments in life, including deciding on which college to attend ("Not Brown but Bowling Green; not Wesleyan but Ohio Wesleyan, not Williams or Smith, but William Smith”), she does not realize how significant her search actually is; she does not feel proud of her grades and her passions in life have either not added up to anything or continue to be nonexistent. She graduates college feeling lost among a sea of people who have already chosen their passions. Sophie, like always, remains maddeningly unsure.

Finally, she ends up in New York, working for her brother’s ex-girlfriend and accepting dates with a neurologist and a biker.  Yet, though she may have chosen a place to go, someone to date, and something to work for, she remains conflicted about what exactly is the right choice for her. Sophie is funny, sarcastic, and deeply critical of herself.  She never seems comfortable with her own choices, her own life, and her own experiences.  In contrast to her brothers, who each find their partners in life and who each have something to work for, she never quite finds her niche.  In the end, The Wonder Spot is not a typical "chick-lit" bildungsroman, but a relatable tale for any modern young woman.

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