Dear Sweet Pea

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Oct. 2019. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062473073.
Gr 3-7–Thirteen-year-old Patricia, aka “Sweet Pea,” is still adjusting to life after her parents’ divorce. She doesn’t know how to feel about her new normal; her mom and dad are basically pretending nothing has changed, and are living on the same block in almost identical houses. Their shared neighbor is the esoteric Flora Mae, the elderly advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?” and all-around institution in Valentine, TX. Miss Flora goes out of town and entrusts her young neighbor with sending along her letters. When Sweet Pea finds a letter in familiar handwriting, she is compelled to answer and becomes embroiled in a well-intentioned scheme of moonlighting as Miss Flora whenever inspiration strikes. But some letters hit too close to home for Sweet Pea, leading to advice that’s not always based in the sender’s best interest. Murphy, (Dumplin’, 2015), succeeds yet again at crafting a touching, quotable coming-of-age story, this time exploring divorce, shifting friendships, crushes, queerness, and much more. Sweet Pea is a delightfully astute young teenager; sometimes the novel’s charm hits high on the saccharine scale, but the girl’s gentle fumbles as she maneuvers big changes at home and school bring the text back down to earth.
VERDICT A first purchase for collections seeking warm realistic fiction that centers divorce, friendship, and self-reflection.

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