Near the end of seventh grade, a girl tangles with her family’s changing shape, her friendships’ changing shapes, and a professional advice column that’s left temptingly unguarded.
Sweet Pea lives in Valentine, Texas. Her therapist mother and housepainter father are divorcing—so amicably that Dad moves only two houses away, into a house almost identical in both structure and décor. This “twinning-parent-freak-show” is meant to keep Sweet Pea’s life stable, but it doesn’t. An ex–best-friend reenters Sweet Pea’s life; a current best friend feels (justifiably) unappreciated; and Sweet Pea’s job facilitating paperwork for a newspaper advice columnist—the peculiar old woman living between Sweet Pea’s two “mirror” houses—gives Sweet Pea unfettered access to the incoming letters and the columnist’s typewriter. What’s a girl to do? Sweet Pea’s first-person narration is endearing and funny while her oblivious self-absorption on certain topics lets readers figure out connections first. Murphy’s portrayal of a fat protagonist whose body is neither symbolic nor problematic is cheerworthy; a scene about the juniors’ section carrying only sizes too small for Sweet Pea is the only one that shows discrimination, and her parents and community support her. Sweet Pea, her parents, and the advice columnist are white (refreshingly, specified rather than assumed); one best friend is Mexican, the other mixed-race (black/white). A few characters are gay.
An excellent blend of eccentricity, humor, genuine sweetness, and mild drama. (Fiction. 8-12)