A young girl with a magic pair of scissors makes a collage out of reality in Safran’s debut YA novel.
Mona adores her flamboyant, fun grandmother Rose, who lives in the apartment upstairs and always offers the young girl yummy treats and a sense of adventure. Life at home often centers on Mona’s sister, Violet, who’s two years older, and her anxious fears. When Rose decides to buy amateur collagist Mona a fancy, gold, bejeweled pair of scissors for her birthday, the consignment shop owner warns her to read the instructions and “never, ever use them when you’re angry.” But when Rose dies, Violet hides the purse holding Mona’s present. Mona later finds it, and she uses the scissors to make a collage expressing her frustration, wishing, among other things, that “VIOLET WOULD JUST GO AWAY!” The surreal results are at first amusing and gratifying; Rose comes back to life, the family acquires a butler named Jeeves, and chocolate cake is on constant offer. But soon events turn sinister—and Mona must work to restore the life she knows. Safran writes with sympathy about the grief, insecurities, and unfairness experienced by young tweens and teens. The book nicely portrays the close, important relationship between a grandparent and grandchildren; Mona’s sadness over Rose’s death is entirely relatable, and it gives emotional force to her use of the magic scissors. Safran’s characterizations are skillful, especially in her balanced portrait of the sisters. The younger girl’s envy of the attention her older sister receives will make sense to anyone with a troubled sibling, and Mona’s view of Violet’s anxious episodes is as humorous as it’s critical: “SPEW (a noun): a public yelling fit often triggered by dirt, grime, general disorder, food groups touching, funerals, regular life, being asked questions you don’t want to answer.” It’s part of Mona’s journey to appreciate how hard Violet must work to manage her anxiety. The author also builds tension well as she adds on spooky elements and ends the story with a satisfying resolution.
A well-written, engaging exploration of the maxim, “Be careful what you wish for.”