During her father’s one-year sabbatical, 12-year-old Petunia Beanly moves to Paris with her parents and beautiful older sister.
Atmospheric and charming, Stone’s intricately designed novel tells three interlocking tales: Petunia in present-day Paris; what happened between Petunia and her crush, Windel, in the near past; and the story of the building concierge and her grandmother that takes place during the Nazi occupation of France. (All the major characters are white.) This skillful interweaving, nicely knotted together by a hidden doll’s dress, creates a tremendous narrative drive, and readers will be whipping the pages to find out what happened. Petunia, who’s funny (sometimes inadvertently), feels like a real 12-year-old, and she turns out to be a generous and keen-eyed storyteller, peppering her narration with the agonies of little-sisterhood and the perfectly observed odd detail. The heart of the story is the relationship between Petunia and her 14-year-old sister, Ava, and it’s completely credible, clearly set up and believably resolved in a way that feels heartfelt and true. Not so the relationship between Petunia and her thoughtless mother. It too is well-established but then works itself out in an unbelievable eye-blink, which may leave readers befuddled. Although annoying, it’s still a minor flaw in an otherwise delightful novel.
A poetically told story with a fairy-tale feel. (Fiction. 10-14)