Sunday, October 06, 2019

Dear Sweet Pea

Murphy, Julie. Dear Sweet Pea
October 1st 2019 by Balzer + Bray
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Sweet Pea DiMarco's parents have divorced, and her father has moved into a home two doors down, so that it's easier for her to go back and forth according to the shared custody arrangement. In between the houses is a larger home occupied by local advice columnist, the eccentric Miss Flora Mae. Sweet Pea and her best friend Oscar have heard all kinds of stories about Miss Flora Mae, so when the columnist asks Sweet Pea to collect her mail, water her plants, and send packages back to the newspaper, Sweet Pea is a little apprehensive but agrees. Her parents' divorce was a bit of a local scandal because her mother is a therapist who specializes in couples' therapy, and her father has come out as gay. Her ex-best friend, Kiera, is a bit mean about everything, and her father has made many snide comments about Sweet Pea's father. Sweet Pea misses how things used to be with Kiera, and starts to try to be a bit nicer to the girl when she finds out that Kiera's parents are fighting and may get a divorce. Sweet Pea opens some of Miss Flora Mae's mail, and answers a couple of the letters, which get published in the paper. As she spends more time with Kiera, Oscar gets angry and starts avoiding her. The DiMarco family is adjusting to their new reality, but it's still hard when the mother starts dating and Sweet Pea fears that her father might move away from their small Texas town and return to Connecticut. When Miss Flora Mae returns and primary school graduation looms, will Sweet Pea be able to handle all of the changes in her life?
Strengths: The best part of this was the day-to-day details of Sweet Pea living with her parents. For some reason, this was oddly compelling to me! Both parents are trying desperately to get along and make the change as easy as possible, and there was something endearing about them having houses close by and trying to maintain the family rituals and traditions. It was also good to see that aside from Kiera's father, there wasn't a lot of drama about the father being gay, and there were also some comments that Oscar might be, but it really didn't matter. Friendship drama is such a big thing in middle school, and there are always readers for stories like Kiera and Sweet Pea's, even though in real life I think friends rarely get back together! The main story with Miss Flora Mae held the book together.
Weaknesses: This is not a great cover. Maybe it's the peach background. Peach tends to circulate poorly. Maybe it's the way Sweet Pea is holding the cat that makes her look younger. I also wish the main story hadn't been the one with Miss Flora Mae, since none of my students read the newspaper and may not care about the advice column.
What I really think: Definitely purchasing, but may have to recommend this if students don't pick it up.

What to wear on a rainy Sunday: jeans, a sweatshirt, and a sleepy dog!

1 comment:

  1. I'm just now learning about the amount of "drama" that goes on at school. I've been meaning to read Sweet Pea, will have to see if it's at the library yet. Sounds interesting.