Study Guide

Hush, Hush Coming of Age

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Coming of Age

Vee is my un-twin. She's green-eyed, minky blond, and a few pounds over curvy. I'm a smoky-eyed brunette with volumes of curly hair that holds its own against even the best flatiron. And I'm all legs, like a bar stool. But there is an invisible thread that ties us together, both of us swear that tie began long before birth. Both of us swear it will continue to hold for the rest of lives. (1.22)

Coming of age is often associated with shifting alliances and relationships. At the start of the novel, Nora identifies Vee as the person she is closest to, and she assumes they will be just as close for their entire lives.

Vee shoved her notebook inside her backpack and ripped the zipper shut. I bit my lip and waved a small farewell. Then I turned slightly, checking out the room behind me. I knew the names of all my classmates… except one. The transfer. […]

He set his bio text down on the table and slid into Vee's old chair. (1.28-29)

Sure enough, the first minor drama in the book comes when Vee is replaced with a boy. He physically takes her spot at the bio table. By the time we get to the end of the book, we recognize this as a small moment of foreshadowing, hinting that Patch will replace Vee as the person Nora is closest to.

I spent the evening planted on a stool in the kitchen in the company of algebra homework and Dorothea, our housekeeper […] [My mom's] job required a lot of travel, and she paid Dorothea to cook and clean, but I was pretty sure the fine print on Dorothea's job description included keeping a watchful, parental eye on me. (2.2)

This part gives us a glimpse of what Nora's life is like at the beginning of the book. It's pretty sheltered, and it seems like she spends most of her time under the safeguards of school and home. We get the idea that she doesn't get into much trouble at all, except for some shenanigans orchestrated by Vee. In general, she's a good student who has been taken care of throughout her life.

Twelve months ago I'd opened the front door to find the police on the doorstep. We have some bad news, they said. My dad's funeral was a week later. (7.5)

A lot of times parents represent the protection, security, and stability of childhood life. When they're gone, it's a sign that those things have been taken away and that a character will have to start facing a scary world on her/his own. Moreover, it's a sign that there's room for a new central figure in a character's life, in this case, a male figure. Does that ring any bells?

Patch's mouth was roaming north, up over my jaw, gently sucking at my skin…

'My legs are falling asleep,' I blurted. (9.114-115)

Patch is obviously sexually experienced and comfortable exploring sexuality. Nora is uncomfortable and squeamish, as evidenced by the word "blurted." Comparing her attitude toward sex in moments like this one against the final lines of the book when she readily asks for "more" demonstrates her growth in terms of sexual maturity.

'We've been struggling for a year, and I'm not pulling in as much as I'd hoped. I've considered taking a second job, but honestly, I'm not sure there are enough hours in the day.' She laughed without any trace of humor. 'Dorothea's wages are modest, but it's extra money we don't have. The only thing I can think of is moving into a smaller house. Or an apartment.'

'But this is our house.' All my memories were here. The memory of my dad was here. I couldn't believe she didn't feel the same way. I would do whatever it took to stay. (14.14-15)

Nora's mom reveals the sad state of their financial affairs and tells Nora they may have to sell the house. Part of coming of age means learning about all the things that worry adults, such as money and mortgages and the cost of keeping up a house. Nora is smacked in the face with all that here.

There is some immaturity in Nora's response when she suggests her mom doesn't feel sad about the idea of leaving the house. Her mom doesn't say as much, but it's easy to imagine she doesn't want to sell her home. However, she knows that she has to take care of finances. Nora still has some growing up to do, but she gets a taste of the cold, hard reality of adult life in this passage.

'Dabria said my birthmark means I'm related to Chauncey. Is that true?'

'Do you really want me to answer that?'

I didn't know what I wanted. My whole world felt like a joke, and I was the last one to get the punch line. I wasn't Nora Grey, average girl. I was the descendant of someone who wasn't even human. And my heart was smashing itself to pieces over another nonhuman. A dark angel.

'Which side of my family?' I said at last.

'Your dad's.' (26.60-64)

Nora learns knew details about her identity, including that her family has a darker history than she's known about. Settling into who you are and deciding what kind of person you want to be are huge features of coming-of-age stories. We actually wanted a little more struggle with the "monster within" concept raised in this passage, but maybe that's coming up later in the series.

'Run,' I told Vee, squeezing her hand. 'He wants me. Call the police. Run!'

Vee dropped my hand and ran. Her footsteps faded depressingly fast. (29.30-31)

Here Nora puts Vee before herself, telling her to get out even though she knows it means being left to face danger alone. Sure, we can understand that Vee is scared out of her mind, but her willingness to leave Nora highlights Nora's bravery and maturity over Vee's.

'It does make a difference,' I said, my voice small but confident. 'You and I share the same blood.' I lifted my hand precariously, showing him the birthmark. 'I'm your descendant. If I sacrifice my blood, Patch will become human and you'll die. It's written in The Book of Enoch.' (29.93)

Giving up your life for someone if dire circumstances necessitate such an act is pretty much the bravest and most mature things a person can do because it demonstrates concern for another rather than with oneself.

'You're keeping something from me,' said Vee. 'What really happened after I left?'

This is where it got sticky. Vee was my best friend. We lived by the motto No Secrets. But some things are just impossible to explain. The fact that Patch was a fallen-turned-guardian angel topped the list. (30.65-66)

It seems like that "invisible thread" mentioned in the first chapter has been broken, and now Nora is closer to Patch than to she is to Vee.

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