Published by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco is adjusting to life with newly divorced parents. Her mom is in their old house, and Dad is renting an identical house two doors down. In between lives Miss Flora Mae, a reclusive, eccentric older woman who writes an advice column for the local paper. Sweet Pea’s written a few letters to Miss Flora Mae herself, struggling with a best friend who’s turned mean girl and some body image issues. When Miss Flora Mae goes away and asks Sweet Pea to collect her mail and send finished columns to the editor, Sweet Pea finds herself tempted to answer a letter or two herself, particularly when she recognizes the handwriting on one. As her friendship issues spiral out of control, Sweet Pea uses the column to discover an important truth–she has all the answers she needs with the help of her family and friends. 288 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: Lots of issues are dealt with here–divorce, having a gay parent, body image, and middle school friendships. Julie Murphy (author of Dumplin’ and other young adult novels) handles it with a light touch and plenty of humor. Sure to be a popular choice for older elementary and middle school readers.
Cons: Maybe I have read too many girls-coming-of-age middle school novels this year (or in my life), but I felt like I had seen so much of this before: the loyal boy best friend, the former best friend turned mean girl, the divorced parents who are trying their best. It’s a cute story, but I was hoping for something a bit less formulaic from such a best-selling author. It got starred reviews in four different journals, though, so maybe I am just getting jaded.