Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Review: The Perfect Place by Teresa E. Harris

The Perfect Place

Treasure’s dad has disappeared and her mom sets out to track him down, leaving twelve-year-old Treasure and her little sister, Tiffany, in small-town Virginia with their eccentric, dictatorial Great-Aunt Grace. GAG (as the girls refer to her) is a terrible cook, she sets off Treasure’s asthma with her cat and her chain smoking, and her neighbors suspect her in the recent jewel thefts. As the hope of finding their dad fades, the girls and their great-aunt begin to understand and accommodate one another. When a final dash to their dad’s last known address proves unsuccessful, Treasure has to accept that he’s gone for good. When she goes back to Great-Aunt Grace’s, it is the first time she has returned to a place instead of just moving on. Convincing, fully realized characters, a snarky narrative voice, and laugh-aloud funny dialogue make The Perfect Place a standout among stories of adjustment and reconfigured families.

I have a dilemma here. For some reason I have not been able to decipher, books with African Americans on the cover do not check out at my library. Asian, Native American, white - no problem. This is a problem, because it means some really great books end up on my 'weed' list, and this one is a REALLY great book! I have had it on face-out display for two months now, with no takers, so I am hoping a blog post will spur a little interest.

Treasure is a fantastic character. Tired of moving around and being hurt, she has rules about new places to keep that from happening: Don't make friends. Avoid extended eye contact and turn down all invitations for play dates. Try not to smile. Don't waste words, which means no small talk. Try not to speak unless your life - or grades - depends on it. She is bright and curious and caring, however, and has a hard time keeping those rules. GAG isn't about to let her hide at home, anyways, and that pesky boy Terrence seems determined to be her friend. The dialog between those two, as well as some of Treasure's internal dialog, is pretty snarky and fun.

Little sister Tiffany is a very real seven-year-old, upbeat and opinionated most of the time, but struggling to understand what the deal is with the grown-ups in her life. GAG (think Grandma Dowdel in A Year Down Yonder) and her...friend, Moon, avoid the possible stereotypes. I absolutely loved one scene towards the end where GAG is puttering around her room, rearranging things as she and the girls have a difficult conversation, because it is just such a normal thing for someone to do. The mean girl and some of the townspeople are not terribly fleshed out, but they just put in brief appearances.

There are many stories weaving together that make this a great coming of age story for any child, not just one with a family in transition. PLEASE come check it out if you are local, and if not, go find it at your local library!

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