Harris, Teresa E. The Perfect Place
November 4th 2014 by Clarion Books
When Treasure's father leaves again and does not come back, her mother feels there is no other option but to take Treasure and her younger sister Tiffany to their Great Aunt Grace's while the mother attempts to locate the father. Treasure is not impressed by the ramshackle house in a small town in Virginia, or with Grace's candy store, where she is forced to work dusting the shelves. While Terrance, who also works in the store, is friendly, too snotty local girls are not, and give Treasure (who insists on going by her middle name, Jeanie, when she is angry with her father) a really hard time, especially when Treasure is forced to go the the local vacation Bible school. There have been robberies in the town, and Grace is suspected by the other townspeople because of previous indiscretions, although we do find out who the real culprit is at the end of the book. The food isn't good at Grace's, and the dust and cigarette smoke bother Treasure's asthma, and all Treasure can think about is having her whole family together again in "the perfect place". She learns eventually that sometimes, the perfect place is the one that isn't perfect, but which has to do.
Strengths: This has a wealth of diverse components-- not only are the main characters African American, but they are working rural poor and Grace is religious. Normally I don't do quirky Southern, but this has some of the elements used to good effect. Treasure's anger at her family are very realistically portrayed, and her asthma comes into the story in interesting and believable ways. I liked this more than I thought I would.
Weaknesses: The mean girls were a little over the top, but Grace's dealing with them was rather funny. It was also a bit of a stretch that everyone in the town thought Grace was a thief.