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PEARL by Jo Knowles

PEARL

By Jo Knowles

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: July 19th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8050-9207-3
Publisher: Henry Holt

A touching family melodrama about the corrosive nature of secrets and the cleansing power of honesty.

Fifteen-year-old Pearl, known only as Bean, has her peculiar family figured out: Her mom, Lexie, is an emotionally distant but highly functioning alcoholic, while grandfather Gus is loving, gentle and ever-present. Bean and her lifelong best friend, Henry, both fatherless fans of Days of Our Lives, imagine grandly soap-operatic scenarios for their respective missing dads, though they both pine for the simplest information about them. Bean’s years of eavesdropping have gleaned just three key words: attacked, pregnant, Bill. When Gus dies suddenly, Bean grieves deeply, while Lexie is liberated: She dyes her hair and gossips late into the night with her best friend Claire and Henry’s reclusive mother, Sally. When Bean accidentally discovers that Lexie has a whopper of a secret and that her family’s emotional landscape is more complicated than she dreamed, the news sends shockwaves through her family and Henry’s. Can Bean reconcile her memories of Gus with Lexie’s experiences? Are Henry and Bean’s gothic fantasies truer than they had imagined?

Knowles’ fine ear for dialogue and her sensitive, nuanced portrayal of ordinary people’s mishandling of complex situations allow her to play with soap-opera conventions without being crushed under their clichéd weight. (Fiction. 12 & up)